Tuesday, December 28, 2010

E-signed and e-delivered, but not e-sealed?

Signed, sealed and delivered is more than a Stevie Wonder song, it represents the attestation of an action or record of a court dating back centuries. Technology, however, has outpaced the days of wax and impressions. For that reason, several state legislatures have have had to go back and change the laws of their states to allow their courts more latitude. legislatures in Oklahoma (HB 2253 of 2004), Iowa (HB 579 of 2009), and Michigan (SB 720 of 2010) all authorized all courts in their state to e-seal. Texas in 2007 (SB 229) gave its district court the authority to create a seal electronically, thus allowing the courts to transfer, store, and locate documents with greater efficiency.

This year, Nevada enters into the e-seal fray. SB 6 authorizes the electronic reproduction of the seal of a court (current law requires either impressing the seal on the document or impressing the seal on a substance attached to the document). The bill is currently pending in the Senate Committee on Judiciary.

Cross-posted at Gavel to Gavel blog

Thursday, December 23, 2010

FL: Mandatory e-filing in criminal cases

Earlier in 2010, Gavel to Gavel looked at efforts by state legislatures to mandate more electronic filing of court documents. Much of the focus was on civil cases, however Florida’s Senate is considering a plan to press for criminal case e-filing. SB 170 of 2011 would require prosecutors and public defenders to e-file documents with the clerk of court and report back on March 1, 2012 on the implementation of the program to the legislature.
Cross-posted at Gavel to Gavel blog

Monday, November 29, 2010

Court Tech Bulletin's New Home

We have joined "the cloud" at the CTB. This will be the new home of the Court Technology Bulletin. We look forward to interacting with everyone in the future.

Also don't forget about the E-Courts Conference 2010 West coming up December 13-15, 2010 in Las Vegas.

Monday, August 30, 2010

SEARCH Launches New JIEM Website

JIEM 4.0 – developed through funding from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) is being released in Fall 2007.  It is an evolution of the current web-based tool which has proven to be a popular and effective requirements-gathering resource.  The release has been driven by consistent user feedback that has demonstrated the need for functionality that will soon be available in the new Eclipse-based JIEM tool. This functionality:

  • Improves the Tools usability and efficiency
  • Supports more rapid and inexpensive addition of new features in the future
  • Requires no connection to the Internet, running locally on the users workstation
  • Allows for easier sharing of exchange models with other users
  • Provides more robust support for XML and integration with other modeling and development tools
  • Allows considerable user customization of the tools look and feel
  • Employs many "rich client" features that users experience in other modeling tools.

Visit the JIEM website to learn more.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Appellate Court E-Filing - 2010

During the recent National Association of Appellate Court Clerks conference, a presentation on lessons learned from E-filing projects was made.  Supreme Courts in Wyoming, Texas and North Carolina shared their experiences.

We also became recently aware that the Supreme Court of Georgia is allowing members in good standing are allowed to register to E-file.  In an article by the Savannah Morning News, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein
was quoted:
What we’re talking about here is a revolutionary change that is a win-win situation for the Court and for the litigants,” Hunstein.said.  The parties will save time and money by no longer having to print, copy and deliver paper documents. No more fighting Atlanta traffic to get those documents into our Clerk’s office by the 4:30 filing deadline. Details about the system can be found at: http://www.gasupreme.us/efile/index.php

Paper on Demand Case Study

Periodically the NCSC has developed case study papers for court technology.  The most recent one is A Case Study of Paper on Demand POD that focuses on E-filing in Colorado and Utah.  You can download a PDF copy here.

NCSC releases 22nd edition of Future Trends in State Courts

Williamsburg, Virginia, USA - June 30, 2010 - The evaluation and adjustment of court operations to improve processes and save money while increasing efficiency and maintaining service levels to the public - a process known as court re-engineering - is the central theme of Future Trends in State Courts 2010, the latest edition of the National Center for State Courts NCSC annual report on Trends in State Courts series. This is the 22nd edition of the series, which is dedicated to making courts aware of key trends that affect not only court operations, but also the role of courts in society.

A limited number of free printed copies of Future Trends 2010 are available by contacting the National Center at 1-800-616-6164. In addition, the National Center is offering a CD containing electronic versions of this year edition as well as the 2000-09 editions. The publication can also be accessed online at: http://www.ncsconline.org/D_KIS/Trends/

Monday, July 26, 2010

Indiana Looks for New Appellate CMS

On July 9, 2010 the following was posted:

 The Division of State Court Administration STAD is responsible for delivering information technology solutions to the Appellate Courts of the State of Indiana defined collectively as the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and Tax Court and to related judicial agencies, including the Clerk’s Office.

STAD is seeking proposals for the delivery of an Appellate Case Management System CMS, with public access and electronic case filing capabilities, for the State’s Appellate Courts.  The PNCO website with relevant document links is located at: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/admin/pnco.html

Editor's note: even if you will never issue an appellate court request for proposal, one might want to collect these documents for future reference and ideas for your own RFP

Friday, July 16, 2010

Comments on Courtroom Technology

On June 16, 2010 authors George C. Zumbano and Benjamin R. Messing posted an article - Technology Is a Double-Edged Sword in the Courtroom on Law.com. The article contains sections on cost-benefit analysis, effectively utilizing technology, and avoiding presentation problems.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Mastering the Unpredictable

A book released earlier this year titled: Mastering the Unpredictable, How Adaptive Case Management Will Revolutionize the Way that Knowledge Workers Get Things Done includes a chapter by NCSC Senior Management Consultant, John Matthias.  Johns chapter, Technology for Case Management, builds on the overall theme stated by the author that - some kinds of work are unpredictable.  We in the courts are reminded every day that this is true.

The book brings together for the first time in one volume ideas that address this issue.  To read a summary go to the authors, Keith D. Swensons blog at: http://kswenson.wordpress.com/2010/04/14/launching-mastering-the-unpredictable/

The book's website is: http://www.masteringtheunpredictable.com/page1.php

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Why the Future Is Not Paper - Second in a Series

Many courts are continuing to view and insist that E-filed electronic documents should continue to be functionally the same as their paper and much dumber cousins.  Please consider that information entombed in a paper document is now locked as to the accuracy of the moment it is printed.  It is essentially a snapshot.  This of course results in all sorts of problems as to the information accuracy when that paper document is later read and used.  And unfortunately, judges and court staff are relying on the accuracy of that locked paper information to make decisions that affect people’s lives.

Say for example a person has a judgment later set aside.  The original judgment document is still there as the written case record.  But later when the document becomes invalid, wouldn’t it be great if the original document could display a link maybe even a flashing icon to the later and more current order?  Of course
it would. The electronic document world can and should be information dynamic.  The electronic legal research companies are providing tools that automatically perform cite and currency checks against statutory and case law.  Why wouldn't the courts take advantage of this capability in the documents submitted for action?  Hyper-links and icons can indicate whether the citation is accurate and when the statute was changed.

Future electronic documents could also provide similar checks against the appropriate databases for a persons’ status say if they were on probation or had a civil protection order in another jurisdiction.  The accuracy checks could be done dynamically when the document is displayed and in turn, reduces the need to capture this information in the court’s case management system. Now we know the argument is that the original document shouldn't be changed because it represents the actual case submissions and that status must be preserved for potential appellate review.  We would in turn argue that the reference links could be filtered or “turned-off” when used in an appellate or similar context.  Again, it is dynamic.  Can your “dead-tree” document do that?

Next – how do you verify a paper document?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

New Website for US Federal Courts

The US Federal Courts collected comments and ideas from a "wide range of users" resulting in a new redesigned website with multimedia, automatic updates, and many other features.  See for yourself at: http://www.uscourts.gov/Home.aspx

Survey Targets Courts Using Social Media

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Blogs.  The list is seemingly endless.  The NCSC is assisting the Conference of Court Public Information Officers, with collecting questionnaire responses for the first major survey on new media and the courts.  To learn more, and to access the survey go to: http://icmelearning.com/CCPIO/index.html

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Why the Future Is Not Paper - First in a Series

This is the first in a series of notes on how the future court document and file environment is not going to look like the current paper-based systems.  I wrote a paper many years ago that used the analogy of automobiles.  The first autos looked like horse carriages.  Does your car look like a carriage now?

One very interesting approach was recently posted by Microsoft Research.  The system is called Pivot and it uses the DeepZoom and Silverlight technology that has been shown in recent years.  It is difficult to explain.  For several video presentations on the new technology go to:  http://www.microsoft.com/silverlight/pivotviewer/

Pivot uses JPEG images and so after seeing the demonstrations please note that there are several software applications that can convert PDF pages to images.  One that I tested successfully is Office Converter: http://www.officeconvert.com/

Iowa EDMS Makes Progress

Thanks to our colleague, Larry Murphy, we learned of a Des Moines Register newspaper article pubished on June 7, 2010 titled: More online court filings seen for Iowa.  The article notes that the EDMS became operational in Plymouth County, Iowa in January and they hope to pilot the system in Story County, Iowa in September.  The article further stated:
"The Plymouth County test took longer than the 90-day pilot period so staff members could fix glitches before expanding the system to other counties, Bosier said.  'We're trying to go about this very carefully and do it properly,' he said. "I'd rather it be a little slower getting there, instead of rushing through and getting it wrong."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Recrafting Government as an Open Platform

The ITJobBlog in the United Kingdom has posted an article on a recently issued report from the Centre for Technology Policy Research.  The post titled - Recrafting government as an open platform notes that:
"Cultural changes are necessary to create an Internet-aware government, the document says. A vision must be created by leadership, outlining guiding principles that must then be enforced."
The article also goes on to state:
"Audits should focus on outcomes, while enabling departments to achieve those goals using their own means. Opening up access to social media tools may help them to meet their objectives, by helping governmental organisations to listen to feedback from traditionally under-represented groups, such as front line workers. Other tools that could help to achieve positive outcomes include real-time communication tools such as live chat."
You can read the entire article at:

The entire Centre for Technology Policy Research report: Open Government, Some Next Steps for the UK can be downloaded in PDF from:

Social Media and the Courts

The NCSC Knowledge and Information Services has collected a plethora of resources on the Social Media phenomena and how courts are adapting to and using Twitter, Facebook and similar services.  The web page can be found at:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Videoconference Appellate Argument Website

We recently ran across a nice web page by the public affairs TV channel, C-SPAN that was created for the Arar v. Ashcroft oral arguments before the US Federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals.  There are a couple of interesting technical presentation ideas presented on the web page.

First, they have created a time-synchronization presentation between the written and video transcript that makes it easy to navigate through the argument.

Second, now Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, is participating via a videoconference link.  The presiding judge has some kind of signal from her when she needs to interrupt to ask a question.

The web page can be viewed at Arar v. Ashcroft argument web page at C-SPAN.

Lawyer Uses YouTube for Video Depositions

Thanks to our good friend Jim Drubert in Montgomery County, Ohio we learned of an attorney using YouTube to store the video portion of their electronic pleading.  According to the Maryland Daily Record in an article published on May 17, 2010 the Louisiana Lawyer:
"John Denenea, Jr. has essentially incorporated the video deposition into his opposition to summary judgment. As most lawyers know, a video deposition can be much more effective than the transcribed version because the viewer can observe witness behavior, including those long pauses before answering questions that do not appear on the transcribed version."
The article: Filing civil pleadings on YouTube contains links to the pleadings and one of the videos.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Canadian Forum on Court Technology Scheduled

Our friends at the Canadian Centre for Court Technology has announced they will be hosting their first Canadian Forum on Court Technology in Ottawa from September 22-23, 2010.  They are listing twenty-two session in three tracks and the NCSC is happy to be a supporter of the event.  For more information see the conference website at: http://www.ccct-cctj.ca/forum/en/

Online Traffic Payments System in Cook County

Public Safety IT magazine published an article in their March/April, 2010 issue on "Paying traffic tickets online in Cook County, IL".  Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Hon. Dorothy Brown states that:
"It enables individuals to rapidly and conveniently respond to their traffic violations and, if they so choose, pay associated fines and other charges safely and securely on their home computers."

Monday, April 19, 2010

All-In-One PCs Cut Power Consumption

The fact that many court clerks offices and chambers are cramped for space does not come as a surprise to those who suffer in those conditions every day.  The addition of a full sized desktop computer, especially when full sized CRT displays were used did not help the situation. But during the past year a new form factor for standard PCs has been introduced by the manufacturers, the All-In-One computer.  Of course this is not new for Apple iMac users, but for the rest of us, this is a good development.

What is meant by an All-In-One computer?  Simply it means that the parts of the computer; the hard disk, DVD/CD drive, processor, and memory are placed behind the display screen resulting in one compact package.  In addition, many All-In-One computers have touch-screen capability that could potentially help to speed data entry with the proper programming.

But why else am I writing about this?  It is because the All-In-One computer format is also a green machine in that it uses much less electrical power than the standard desktop computer.  The All-In-Ones I looked at used a 65 watt or lower power supply.  In contrast, a survey of currently available desktop PCs showed they used from a low of 220, to a high of 450 watts of power each.  Multiply this by 25, 50, or 100 computers this turns into a significant amount of power and heat.

If you are interested in more detailed information; I found the following review article for this style of machine from last fall on the Computer Shopper website.  It provides a quick overview of the All-In-One machines that were available at the time.


US Federal Courts Update Public Access Policies

The March, 2010 edition of The Third Branch Federal Court newsletter contains an interesting article: Judicial Conference Approves Steps to Improve Public Access.  The article describes several actions to decrease the cost of using their PACER public access system and to make digital audio recordings available. The article also noted that in 2009:
"PACER received more than 360 million requests for electronic access to information from the over 33 million federal cases that have documents online."

Friday, April 9, 2010

More PDF Security Problems

On top of previous warnings, Adobe and FoxIt have announced actions that users should implement to prevent malicious programs from being automatically launched when opening an infected PDF file.  An excellent article on the subject was posted on the ZDNet blog Zero Day by Ryan Naraine and Dancho Danchev at:


Program security updates are expected to be released during the week of April 12, 2010.

e-Courts Conference Agendas Posted

Earlier this week the conference agendas for both the e-Courts East Tampa, Florida - Sept 13-15 and e-Courts West Las Vegas, Nevada - December 13-15 were posted on the conference website.  And additional information regarding the vendor exposition has also been listed.  The conferences are really coming together with many new ideas being shared for the first time.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

This and that on April Fools Day

We've been collecting a few items of interest over the past few weeks.  The first is the BlackBox Wireless Video Presentation System.  This small box connects to a prjector or flat panel via their VGA interface and allows one to connect your laptop via Wi-Fi to display your presentations and video.  Further, it lets up to 254 users share and swap the connection and allows for a 4-to-1 screen-split projection.

Second, we participated in one of the series of Law.gov project seminars at Cornell University.  The first of many project goals are to develop "detailed technical specifications for markup, authentication, bulk access, and other aspects of a distributed registry" for legal materials.  The project's website is: http://resource.org/law.gov/  A list of upcoming events can be viewed at:

Third, we had the honor to visit to the Fayette County, Pennsylvania courthouse.  Courtroom Number 1 literally brings the phrase "Temple of Justice" to mind.  Interestingly in the courthouse law library was a display for local crafts-people who had made book bags from... recycled law books.  To see what we mean visit their website at: http://www.bookbags.us.com/

Friday, March 26, 2010

Some Courts Are Using E-Mail for E-Filing

During some recent research we ran across several courts that are allowing E-mail as a method for electronic filing of court documents.  The North Dakota Supreme Court order providing guidance for e-filing using e-mail can be viewed at:


Similarly the UK Courts Service guidance for using e-mail to submit documents can be seen at:

And last, in an earlier CTB article we discovered that Israel is also using e-mail as part of their system.

Justice Reference Architecture Implementation Competition Announced

The National Center for State Courts and SEARCH Group — on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance BJA — are pleased to announce that they are seeking proposals to design and implement information sharing solutions that utilize the Justice Reference Architecture JRA. The JRA applies principles of Service Oriented Architecture SOA across the justice and public safety communities to improve information sharing capabilities.

The goal of this project is for award recipients hereinafter called project participants to employ JRA concepts in the definition of information exchange requirements and to demonstrate full-scale architecture design and implementation of JRA-conformant information exchanges within their environments or with external partners. Awards will be made to successful candidates as follows:

Maximum Award Amount: $100,000

Maximum Number of Awards: 2

No match is required; however, projects funded under this solicitation are expected to demonstrate long-term financial viability and may incur additional local costs.
It is the intent of this project to make one award to a State or Major Urban Area Fusion Center that is capable of implementing the JRA as described below. Priority consideration will be given to Fusion Center proposals that leverage existing Global products, standards, and initiatives.

The full announcement can be viewed at the SEARCH Group's website at:


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Federal Courts Report on Sealed Cases and Probation E-Filing

The February, 2010 edition of the US Federal Courts Newsletter, The Third Branch has two articles of interest.  The first article, FJC Report Focuses on Sealed Cases in Federal Courts reports that only .5 percent of cases were completely sealed.  This is of interested for electronic document automation because of the amount and type of technology that may need to be used.

The second article, Electronic Filing by Probation and Pretrial Services Speeds Up Court Process, Reduces Paper identifies many advantages to the use of E-Filing.  Specific benefits cited were the elimination of lost paperwork, easy certification of the record, and as part of their continuity of operations planning since the records would be available from anywhere they could set up a computer system with comunications.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Online Credit Card Security Standards

An important part of modern court operations is the ability to accept credit/debit card payment and if desired say in an E-filing system; be able to store the credit card number with the user account to make the system easier to use.  The Security Standards Council that was formed by the credit card industry has produced detailed standards “to enhance payment account data security”.  In particular courts should examine the PCI Data Security Standard PCI DSS as a core functional specification for their credit card systems.  As stated on the standards web page  the “core of the PCI is a group of principles and accompanying requirements” are:

Build and Maintain a Secure Network
Requirement 1: Install and maintain a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data
Requirement 2: Do not use vendor-supplied defaults for system passwords and other security parameters

Protect Cardholder Data
Requirement 3: Protect stored cardholder data
Requirement 4: Encrypt transmission of cardholder data across open, public networks

Maintain a Vulnerability Management Program
Requirement 5: Use and regularly update anti-virus software
Requirement 6: Develop and maintain secure systems and applications

Implement Strong Access Control Measures
Requirement 7: Restrict access to cardholder data by business need-to-know
Requirement 8: Assign a unique ID to each person with computer access
Requirement 9: Restrict physical access to cardholder data

Regularly Monitor and Test Networks
Requirement 10: Track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data
Requirement 11: Regularly test security systems and processes

Maintain an Information Security Policy
Requirement 12: Maintain a policy that addresses information security

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Court Costs and Electronic Discovery

The electronic transition continues. On February 1, 2010 Austin, Texas attorney Craig Ball published an interested article titled - Are We Just Makin' Copies? in Law Technology News.  In the article he argues that the Federal Court Rules of Civil Procedure must be updated to recognize new realities and to create a consistent approach to court cost recovery.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Florida State Courts Administrator Issues RFP for Governance Study

The Florida Office of State Courts Administrator, Strategic Planning Unity has recently issued a Request for Proposals for a Judicial Branch Governance Study.  The RFP is in concert with Florida Supreme Court Administrative Order AOSC09-43 issued in October, 2009 that:

Directs the Judicial Branch Governance Study Group to undertake an in-depth study of the current governance system of the judicial branch of Florida.  The study group is directed to submit a final report and recommendations to the court no later than December 31, 2010.

The order further directs that the report shall contain:

1  An examination of the structure and functions of the present governance system of the Florida judicial branch and an assessment of its efficacy and efficiency;
2  Recommendations of actions or activities that the study group concludes would advance improvement in the governance of the judicial branch; and,
3  Recommendations of any changes to the present governance system that the study group concludes would
improve the effective and efficient management of the Florida judicial branch.

A copy of the RFP in PDF form can be downloaded from:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

US Federal Courts Provide Guidance on Juror Smart Phone Use

On January 24th, the US Federal Courts Judicial Comittee on Court Administration and Case Management for the US District Courts issued instructions to be provided to jurors regarding the use of cell phones and computers during their service. 
A Network World article posted on February 2, 2010 titled - Courts move to ban juror use of Blackberry, iPhone, Twitter and Facebook provides a summary of this action. 
The court instructions can be downloaded in PDF at: http://www.uscourts.gov/newsroom/2010/DIR10-018.pdf

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

COSCA Whitepaper on Digital Recording

The Conference of State Court Administrators adopted the white paper titled - Digital Recording: Changing Times for Making the Record at their December, 2009 meeting.  The paper notes challenges to the current method listing the Decline in Court Reporter Resources and Efficient, Timely Transcript Production and Access to the Record.  The also note opportunities of Digital Recording including the Fundamentals of the technology, access, administrative control, integration of digital recordings with CMS and potential for cost savings.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

E-Courts 2010 Date Correction

The E-Courts Conference West to be held in Las Vegas at the Red Rock Resort will be held from December 13-15, 2010.  The previously announced dates, December 6-8 were incorrect.  Many apologies for the mistake.  E-Courts Conference East will be held in Tampa, Florida from September 13-15, 2010 at the Marriott Waterside.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Release of CAMeditor Available

From a press release issued on December 16, 2009:

A new release of CAMeditor v1.7 is now available with NIEM 2.1 and LEXS 3.1.4 support. CAMeditor is an XML Editor/Validation/Schema Designer. Implements OASIS CAM standard & NIEM IEPDs. Outline & expand from XML Component Dictionary. Build/Load XSD schema, make XML samples, HTML docs, detect NDR bugs; generate dictionary CCTS. Eclipse Java & XSLTSaxon.

For the CAMeditor significant changes include improvements to the Eclipse user interface and template structure display along with enhancing the top down designer and generation and handling of large dictionary structures. Also included is a new LEXS 3.1.4 dictionary with sample expander blueprint templates for LEXS messages and updates of the NIEM dictionary files to the NIEM 2.1 release. Various NIEM related enhancements have been made in support of better IEPD generation http://www.niem.gov . CAMeditor is built using Eclipse, Java, and Saxon xslt.

The CAMV validation engine is now a thread-safe implementation supporting deployment in middleware containers such as jBOSS or IBM Websphere MQ™. Validation of exchange structures now allows handling of very large XML instances with checking of a discreet subset of business content requirements. Also integration support for Java call methods SDOM has been implemented CAMV is developed in Java using Saxon, Xerces and XPath v2.0 support.

The project vision is to provide the leading open source toolset for implementing standards based information exchanges with XML, including the NIEM IEPD approach. Simplifying and speeding the development process and enhancing the quality of your resulting schema for superior XML exchanges. To date we have had over 15,500 downloads from Sourceforge.net http://www.sourceforge.net/projects/camprocessor .