In final state of judiciary speech, Toal says she is proud of legacy of computerized records

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COLUMBIA, South Carolina — In her final state of the judiciary speech, Chief Justice Jean Toal said Wednesday she is proud of her legacy of computerizing South Carolina court records and finding alternative ways of getting cases through the justice system.

Lawmakers gave Toal a standing ovation for more than 30 seconds after she concluded her speech with her customary display: a picture of her grandson.

"It's been the highest honor of my life to have the privilege to serve on the Supreme Court," said Toal, who became the court's first female top judge in 2000.

Her 27 years on the Supreme Court come to a close this year. In August she turns 72, the mandatory retirement age for South Carolina judges.

Toal said when she became chief justice, not a single courthouse had Internet service and all records were on paper.

Instead of storing records on bulky mainframe computers, Toal said she saw keeping them on the Web would be cheaper and more manageable. Now all records are online, backed up by a system run by Clemson University instead of an out-of-state firm.

"That was a way-out idea back in 2000," Toal said.

Court workers in Greenville and Clarendon counties will start a pilot project this year to have all court records filed online from their source. The fees paid by lawyers will pay for the system and other judicial department needs, Toal said.

The chief justice, who spent 13 years in the South Carolina House before being elected to the Supreme Court in 1988, also thanked lawmakers for helping her with reforms to help move cases through the justice system more quickly, like drug courts, fast track jury trials and sentencing reform.

Toal showed all the pictures of her grandson Patrick that she has included at the end of her speeches through the years. She has always said her chief goal was to make South Carolina a better place for him and her granddaughter Ruth and all the next generation. She thanked lawmakers for helping her.

"You've been wonderful partners," she said.

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