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Bill Wilder

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Jefferson County, KY Court Access: The Perfect Storm

Canva - Louisville pinned on a map of USA

By now you may have heard that the background screening industry has run into a proverbial iceberg in Jefferson County, Kentucky (Louisville) due to a confluence of events including the COVID-19 pandemic, a state Supreme Court directive to enforce social distancing in the courts and civil unrest. As a result, CRAs and their end-user clients face a mountain of backlogs with no end in sight.

Here’s a quick recap of how the most populous county in Kentucky got here.

  1. Initial Court Closure Due to COVID-19 Pandemic- The courts were closed from March 25th through June 17th. During that time, no research could be conducted. Of course, this created a sizable backlog.
  2. Reopening with Restrictions- The Kentucky State Supreme Court authorized courts in the state to reopen on June 18th but imposed significant social distancing requirements. In Jefferson County, there are now only two operating terminals (see pictures below) and research is by appointment-only in two-hour increments cutting output by at least 50%. In many cases, even when the researcher can book an appointment, their sessions are being cut short by the court (by as much as an hour and a half).
  3. Court Closures and Restrictions Due to Civil Unrest- In March of this year, a woman named Breonna Taylor was shot and killed in her apartment by Louisville police officers after her boyfriend shot and wounded an officer when they attempted execute a search warrant. The city has already settled a wrongful death civil suit with Taylor’s family, and moments ago it was learned that one of the officers will face criminal charges related to his actions (but not for the killing of Taylor). This has led to mass demonstrations around the courthouse and as of this week, the state has issued a state of emergency order which among other things prompted the courts to close this week and to remain closed for the foreseeable future.

Jefferson County 2Jefferson County 3

Jefferson County 1

Putting This Into Context

Given these events, we wanted to take a moment to provide some context to the problem this has caused.  As you can see in the pictures below, there are now only two available machines in the entire courthouse (due to social distancing requirements). The court is open from 8:30am to 4:30pm each work day for a total of eight hours per machine for a total of 16 possible computing hours per workday.  According to our productivity experience and analysis, we believe that now translates to the entire industry being able to complete a maximum of approximately 800 searches a day. 

You might be saying, “well that’s a pretty big number but we should clear that queue in no time”.  Let’s think about that for a moment; we estimate that the industry as a whole is facing a backlog of approximately 120,000 searches. We are all fighting for the same two terminals in the building.  At 800 per day of possible output for everyone combined and excluding any new incoming work, the industry could be looking at 150 business days (30 weeks) just to deal with the outstanding volume. When you think about the daily volume that is being added to the backlog, it could take a year or more to complete if things don't change. 

Of course, everyone will be competing for a disproportionate share of computer time, but this is not be a problem that you can throw labor at and it isn't a problem that can be resolved quickly. 

We bring all this up because significant frustration from CRAs and end-users is growing by the day.  We too, are terribly frustrated and are doing our best to manage expectations and develop thoughtful solutions about how we can solve this problem. 

Proactively Identifying Workable Solutions

SJV Data Solutions has been working closely with the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) to advocate on behalf of the industry and identify solutions designed to create more bandwidth. These ideas have ranged from making the court’s data available online to creating additional rooms in the court where more work terminals can be installed. We’re also trying to identify alternate methods of conducting this research as a short-term fix. We have found a reliable source but are concerned that it will be too cost prohibitive based on access fees.

Needless to say that this is a problem for the background screening industry that won’t be going away anytime soon. There are many understandable explanations for why Jefferson County got to this point and we are hopeful that we can work with them to provide a better solution for making their information more widely available and get those job candidates who have lived in the county to get the information they need to get back to work.