Raymond M. Seidel, 96, driving force behind online court records in Montco

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Raymond Millar Seidel using a typewriter with modem.

Raymond Millar Seidel, 96, of Gladwyne, a lawyer who was the driving force behind computerization of court records in Montgomery County, died Monday, July 10, of complications from dementia at his home.

A longtime partner in the Norristown law firm of High Swartz Roberts & Seidel, he was among the first in the state to recognize the value of computer technology as a tool for easy access to court filings.

Previously, the parties to a case or the client’s lawyer had to appear in person at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, and ask to see the case file. Criminal cases were lodged with the clerk of courts, civil matters with the prothonotary. The process was cumbersome and time-consuming.

Mr. Seidel changed all that, starting in the 1970s when he was appointed by the county commissioners to chair a committee on digitalization. “He brought the commissioners along with him,” said Mr. Seidel’s law partner, Gilbert High.

From 1972 to 1983, Mr. Seidel coordinated the county’s judicial information system, and from 1984 to 1992, he directed the county’s new computer department – all while maintaining a law practice.

“He was a partner at High Swartz and an important part of the legal profession here, but his heart was in this separate idea, and he threw his energy into it,” High said.

Now, said High, “When you want to know the status of a case, you can go into the [computer] records of the prothonotary and search by the defendant’s name, the plaintiff’s name, or the docket number. You can pull up the docket. That is enormously beneficial to attorneys who have cases in Montgomery County.”

The idea came from an early county job. Starting in the late 1950s, Mr. Seidel was solicitor for county prothonotary Robert Reithmiller. Over the next 13 years, the men implemented changes, including an annual numbering system for new cases, a secure way to store records, and a simplified billing system.

“Without those modernizations, the present automated system might not have come about,” wrote Marlyn Smith, a High Swartz lawyer, in a biography to mark Mr. Seidel’s 50th year in the law.

The irony behind Mr. Seidel’s achievement was that he was not all that comfortable using a computer himself. “He was about as computer illiterate as anyone I have ever met,” High said. “He couldn’t get online, but he saw the importance of [the project]. He loved it, and was proud of the work he had done.”

Mr. Seidel’s efforts went beyond Montgomery County. As other counties in Pennsylvania began to explore computerization of court records, they called Mr. Seidel. He met with the commissioners and told them what to do, High said.

Mr. Seidel served as chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Computer Interfacing Committee from 1983 to 1989, and in 1984 he received a special achievement award for his work in developing Montgomery County’s automated court records system.

“He was the leading voice in Pennsylvania” for computerized records, High said of his law partner.

Born in Bryn Mawr to Mary Corrigan and Charles Seidel, a prominent Main Line dentist, Mr. Seidel was a graduate of Lower Merion High School, and Villanova College, now a university, in 1942.

He served four years in the Navy during World War II and retired from the Navy Reserve with the rank of lieutenant commander.

Mr. Seidel graduated from Temple University School of Law School in 1949, and immediately joined High Swartz Roberts & Seidel, now called High Swartz LLP. He was a partner from 1956 until he stepped down in 1992.

During leisure time, Mr. Seidel enjoyed sailing on the Chesapeake and acting as an informal general contractor for building renovations along the Main Line, his family said.

“He loved the idea of pragmatic use of properties,” said his son, Peter C. Seidel. On one Ardmore building, he arranged for a roof that in good weather would roll back to reveal the sky.

He was married to Gisela S. Seidel, with whom he had four children. She died in 1995. He married Mary Nordhoff Seidel, who died in 2011.

Besides his son, he is survived by children Ileana S. Stevens, Andrew J., and Gisela S. Campanelli; and seven grandchildren.

Funeral services and interment will be held later.

Memorial donations may be made to Main Line Health HomeCare & Hospice, 240 N. Radnor Chester Rd., Suite 100, Radnor, Pa. 19087.

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