Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Twelve Days of Court Tech

With attribution to the original "Twelve Days of Christmas" and song; and thanks to my good friend Ken Lobenstein who authored this, the CTB presents: "The Twelve Days of Court Tech" for the holiday season.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Evolving World of Case Management: Taming the Unpredictable

Case management systems are not only for courts.  The concepts are being used in many industries including insurance, health care, and even airport management systems.

Monday, December 12, 2011

US Federal Courts Internet Education/Training Offered


The November, 2011 edition of The Third Branch federal courts newsletter contains articles on three new internet services.

The first article announces that the judiciary has created "a free-of-charge website the offers training for the federal Judiciary's Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) service."

The article continues: "The site, which launched in mid-September, features data from real cases in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York filed over a six-month period in 2007. The training site can be accessed via “What’s New With PACER” on the PACER website home page, www.pacer.gov."

A second article "Contemporary Issues Teach Teens about Federal Court System" describes an eduction website that"is offering several new courtroom simulations for use by high school teachers and federal courts that address contemporary issues and teen-related situations. They also teach students about the importance of jury deliberations and the relevance of the federal court system to their lives.

Two recently added simulations deal with Miranda warnings and counter-protests at funerals. Others deal with the legal conflicts arising from social media, texting while driving, teen house parties, and student protests. The simulations are available, with videos, podcasts, and interactive tools on-line at www.uscourts.gov/EducationalResources.aspx that are ready for immediate classroom and courtroom use."

And last, there is a quick note regarding an online series of podcasts on "landmark" cases.  The note states that "(e)ach episode explores a different landmark case as a law professor discusses the case’s background, key arguments, and the decision.

New episodes will be available each month at uscourts.gov/landmarks."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

PDF Isn't Permanent.


Recently I received an E-mail solicitation for a product called PDF Security Removal.  As many of you know, there are settings that work with Adobe Reader that supposedly keep a PDF document from being printed or saved.  So one more "advantage" of PDF electronic documents to serve as the permenant case file record is now obsolete.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Electronic Judicial Bench


Hon. Chief Judge Lee E. Hayworth
In an earlier CTB article I wrote about the need for E-filing systems to focus upon the needs of the judiciary in the transition from a paper to electronic environment.  But as usually happens, a court has already made this occur.

Starting in 2009, the judges of the 12th Judicial Circuit of Florida working in conjunction with the Clerk of Court in Manatee County created a system "designed for judges, by judges".

Monday, November 28, 2011

Lots of IJIS Institute Announcements

Many announcements from the IJIS Institute:
Announcement 1:
NEW Information Sharing LinkedIN Group
Please join the IJIS Institute’s new LinkedIN Group:  Justice & Public Safety Information Sharing.  The Group is a technology forum for practitioners and industry from the state, local, and tribal justice and public safety communities.  The forum encourages organizations and individuals to share information about cross-agency, cross-jurisdictional, and cross-sector information sharing.  Participants will  discuss and share information on technology and standards to facilitate and assist one another to achieve information sharing.  In just three weeks, 376 of your industry colleagues from across the country have joined the information sharing discussion.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

There's an App for That Court


1st Judicial District of
PA Android QR code
Courts are now making their information "smart phone" accessible.

First, from The Pennsylvania Record legal journal (www.pennrecord.com) in an article from October 14, 2011:

"Are you an attorney looking for easier access to upcoming civil trial dates? How about simply a member of the general public looking to learn more about the judicial system in the City of Philadelphia?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Iterative Implementation


In recent years I have become less and less convinced that courts have the ability to foresee all of the process/workflow, document, and data sharing BEFORE they install a new case or document management system.  These new systems have substantially more capabilities and flexibility that is not available in first or second generation case management systems.  The new system brings many more new capabilities and possibilities.  The old thinking about how things should be done in general does not apply and the design/specification efforts are wasted.

Therefore in recent years I have often advocated an “iterative approach” that has a new system first installed in the court with base/default capabilities.   THEN, after experiencing the new system environment, the court adjusts both the system workflows/presentation and their business processes (and ideally organizational structure) to take advantage of the new technical capabilities.  Visually presented, these are the two outside arrows of the Court Technology Framework diagram in action.

The system is therefore chosen based on the tools and potential, and not on how closely it fits the existing or imagined situation.  This in turn means that new court automation system installations are not a 6 month but rather a 12-24 effort.  And budgets and staff resources must be provided to support the effort over that time.

Many of you know and have viewed the wonderful TED Conference presentations that are available online.  One presentation on point is called “Build a tower, build a team” by Tom Wujec. I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Signing Documents on Your iPad?


As many of you know, Apple iPads are already widely adopted by the judicial community.  One issue/desire that has arisen is the ability for judges to "sign" documents.  But unfortunately the late Steve Jobs rejected the idea that a "pen interface" was needed as standard equipment in opposition to the Tablet systems previously released by Microsoft.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Maryland Chooses Statewide CMS & E-Filing Vendor




In a press release on November 3, 2011, it was announced that the State of Maryland Judiciary has selected Tyler Technologies' "Odyssey® court management system as the single, integrated environment for managing and reporting court information".

According to the announcement:

"The contract between Tyler and the State of Maryland is valued at approximately $45 million, which includes software licensing fees, professional services and a multi-year maintenance agreement. The MDEC Project will use several Odyssey modules, including Case Manager, Enterprise Content Management, Financial Management and e-Filing.

Maryland’s search for a judicial technology partner was anchored by three strategic goals: 1) enhance public safety by more rapidly sharing high-quality data in support of better decision-making; 2) increase access to the courts by providing an easy-to-use system that’s available anywhere, anytime; and 3) support the fair and efficient administration of justice by using a system that improves overall court operations, including better scheduling, reduced delays and better-informed decisions."

Friday, October 28, 2011

Eight Rules of E-Filing: Conclusion

The goal of this series was to expand the thinking about E-filing beyond the delivery of static civil case documents via a web server (the most common system).  E-filing must support all case types and the transition from a paper records to an electronic records foundation.

In turn, electronic documents do not have to be restricted to the limitations of paper documents.  Formats, organization, and data capture/extraction can all take advantage of the dynamic environment that electronic information allows. In other words, as I often teach in classes and seminars, better information can and will result in better decisions and in turn, justice.  And while this goal will never be fully realized, E-filing and related technologies will move us closer.

Last, for your convenience, the entire series of articles have been compiled into a PDF document that can be downloaded.  (see the "File" command in the upper right corner to download or make a copy)

Links to all of the articles in the series:

Introduction
Rule Number 1: All documents created by the court are stored in the electronic document management system (EDMS) are designated as “the official record”.
Rule Number 2: User authentication must be designed into the overall e-filing solution.
Rule Number 3: Design Backwards
Rule Number 4: Court document creation must be integrated with the CMS.
Rule Number 5: Efficiency.  E-filing should facilitate more efficient court processes and decisions.
Rule Number 6: E-Filing Must Support the Self-Represented
Rule Number 7: E-Filing Should Support Government to Court Communications
Rule Number 8: E-filing and “Paper on Demand”


Thursday, October 20, 2011

This and That - October, 2011

CTC-2011 

The conference was a great success again this year.  For education session presentations and articles go to: http://www.ctc2011.org/Attendees/Program-at-a-glance.aspx and then click on the session name.

Registration Still Open for Privacy and Public Access Conference

Our partner, the Center for Legal and Court Technology has openings for the 8th Conference on Privacy and Public Access to Court Records to be held in Williamsburg, Virginia from November 3-4, 2011.  For more see the conference website at: http://www.privacy.legaltechcenter.net/aspx/Conferences.aspx

Monday, October 17, 2011

Florida Senate: Make non-efilers in courts pay a 3.5% surcharge?

Cross-posted at Gavel to Gavel blog

 I mentioned last week that the Florida Senate was going to meet tomorrow (October 18) and that the agenda included an item entitled
Presentations on issues related to electronic filing of court documents
I came across a (possibly) related piece of legislation: SB 410 of 2012. The bill contains two provisions:
(1) A litigant who is required to electronically file a court or other legal document in a court of this state, in the Division of Administrative Hearings, or in the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims shall pay a surcharge in addition to any other cost incurred if the litigant files a paper document instead of electronically filing the document. The surcharge shall equal 3.5 percent of the cost of filing the document electronically. (2) This section does not apply to a litigant who is indigent as determined by s. 27.52, Florida Statutes.
The obvious question is "who is required to electronically file a court or other legal document"? SB 170 of 2011, signed into law in June, requires 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 (click here for prior posts). A 2009 statute (SB 1718) required the clerks of court to implement an electronic filing process by March 1, 2010. Live coverage of the Senate Judiciary Committee e-filing presentation can be found here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Eight Rules of E-filing: Rule #8

Rule Number 8:  E-filing and “Paper on Demand”.  

E-filing (and more specifically electronic documents) provide flexibility in the ability for judges and staff to consume content.  A widely held view (see note 1 below) is that if the judge is better served by printing documents; they should be allowed to print the documents that are needed for the work at hand.  But when done working with those documents they are recycled and/or shredded.  They aren’t maintained as the official record.

Monday, October 10, 2011

CTC-2011 - What Did You See? (Updated -11/10/11)


Last week's Court Technology Conference (the 12th since 1984) was a gathering of court technology professionals, enthusiasts, and the curious in Long Beach, California.  Many of the conference presentations have already been made available at:

http://www.ctc2011.org/Attendees/Program-at-a-glance.aspx 
(Click on the session title to open a window with links to the presentation(s) if available).

I for one very much enjoyed Korean Judge Hoshin Won's presentation on tablet and surface computing including a tour of their e-Courts Experience Center.  A picture of a virtual courtroom concept demonstrating touch-screen and "tele-presence" technology in their e-Courts Experience Center is shown above.

A video of the e-Court Experience Hall and presentations are available at:

http://www.ctc2011.org/Attendees/CLCT-program.aspx

What did you see that you would like the CTB readers to know about?  We invite you to share your experiences by posting a comment below.

Monday, October 3, 2011

CTC-2011 Daily Update

For up-to-date information as to what is happening in Long Beach, California go to CTC Daily Update web page at: http://icmelearning.com/ctc/mailer/daily-update.html

Hope to say hi to many of you this week!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Eight Rules of E-Filing: Rule #7

E-Filing Should Support Government to Court Communications

The vast majority of E-filing systems focus upon civil case matters.  While there are many reasons I believe that besides vendor funding, this focus greatly reduces project political risk to the courts.  Judges have more discretion in managing civil cases and the parties can agree to work together to support new systems and procedures for everyone’s benefit.  In fact, this is how court E-filing started in 1990 in the Delaware Chancery Court.

But criminal and other cases involving human services and other government departments and programs are a different animal for E-filing.  In criminal cases the attorneys are continually looking for procedural mistakes and other errors in order dismiss cases and free or reduce the penalties for their clients.  In other words, the attorneys truly embrace their adversarial role with court procedures as well as the opposing side.  As a result, and along with funding challenges, there are only a handful of criminal case E-filing systems in the USA today.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Court Automation Funding Compilation Report

Our NCSC Technology Department's excellent summer intern and future law school student, Ms. Emily Whitaker, scoured the Internet and legal research resources to compile a list of state court automation funding. We can report that the majority of state courts have implemented some type of automation support fee or fund. The results were compiled into a PDF spreadsheet format and are available at:

http://www.ncsc.org/Services-and-Experts/Areas-of-expertise/Technology/2011-Technology-Survey-Results.aspx

Monday, September 12, 2011

US Federal Courts Train Judges Online

The August, 2011 edition of the US Federal Court's newsletter, The Third Branch, contains a brief article on their "Chambers Online Automation Training (COAT)" system.  The article states:


"The audio/video training modules fall into 13 general lesson areas. Few run longer than 10 minutes, many clock in at around 3 minutes. Each module is organized by job-related function and includes a demonstration and a guided simulation.


COAT began with a desire by the Judicial Conference Information Technology Committee to create better IT training for judges and chambers staff. It is part of the FJC/AO Judicial IT Training Initiative."

Friday, September 9, 2011

New Hampshire Issues E-Filing RFI

The New Hampshire Judicial Branch has issued an RFI for E-filing and related services.  A copy of the RFI can be obtained at:  http://admin.state.nh.us/purchasing/specRFP.asp?rfpID=6892


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Eight Rules of E-Filing: Rule #6

E-Filing Must Support the Self-Represented

To date most court E-filing has focused on civil litigation for a number of reasons.  First, a majority of non-small-claims civil litigation is serviced by attorneys.  This well-educated user base is generally motivated to reduce their operational costs.  And with the use of E-filing in the USA Federal Courts being widespread, they are becoming very familiar with the technology.  But state courts in particular are increasingly experiencing a significant transition in case participants to more and more self-representation.  A recent compilation by the Knowledge and Information Services staff here at the NCSC reported that 66% of all cases heard in Minnesota courts involved the self-represented with a high of 81% of family cases.  And Connecticut reported a 101% increase in the number of civil cases involving self-represented from 2005 to 2010.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Search for Quiet


Courtroom proceedings are an often intense environment during which one strains to hear every nuance of spoken communication.  And while there are many problems with courtroom acoustics, especially in large courtrooms, the tapping of keyboards can be disturbing.

In 2007 Judge Michael Marcus from the Circuit Court of Multnomah County Oregon shared his views on his quest for a quiet keyboard.  That quest continues to this day.  But as expected, there are two recent technology innovations that could be considered as a solution to this problem.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Eight Rules of E-Filing: Rule #5


Efficiency.  E-filing should facilitate more efficient court processes and decisions. 

First, once E-filing is implemented courts should re-engineered their rules and processes to take advantage of the new capabilities.  A good example is the court in Baltimore, Maryland that adjudicated thousands of asbestos matters.  The judge worked with the attorneys to group the electronic submissions 10 at a time containing identical facts (same shipyard, timeframe, and injury) and in turn modified the review presentation screen so that he could more quickly review and approve the civil settlement for the filers.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Federal Court Self-Filer's Examined


The July, 2011 edition of The Third Branch newsletter contains an important article summarizing a study on current services to self-represented and "Pro-se" filers offered by US federal courts.  The article: IN-DEPTH: Leveling the Playing Field: Help for Self-Filers reports on both automated and direct self-help services offered.  One side-bar in the article noted:

"...A disturbingly large number of litigants come to the Clinic with basic reading and comprehension problems; some cannot even read Court orders and the opposition's filings.  Others can decipher the words in the documents but cannot comprehend even the simplest of Court orders."

The article also updates the Central District of Illinois project for Pro-Se E-Filing for Prisoners that was previously highlighted in the CTB.

This article is highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Eight Rules of E-Filing: Rule #4


Rule Number 4: Court document creation must be integrated with the CMS.  

A great percentage of documents in a case file are produced by the court.  Therefore it is imperative that a court e-filing system seamlessly interact with the court’s case management system (CMS) and word processing capabilities.

Friday, August 5, 2011

This and That in Court Technology - August 2011


Oklahoma Funds CMS Via Increased Court Fees

The Tulsa World newspaper reports that an increase in court filing fees from $10 to $25 has resulted in approximately $32 million dollars used to fund their statewide court case management system.

Wolfram Releases Computable Document Format

In continuing work on "useful" electronic documents, the Wolfram company has released a new format called Computable Document Format that can be used to create interactive reports.  Sounds perfect for project like Smart Sentencing.

New York State E-Courts Projects Noted

The New York Times newspaper recently highlighted work being done by the New York State Courts to transition to electronic records.

The Future of Court Reporters is Explored

In an article posted on the Law.com blog, "Are Court Reporters 'Medival Scribes' Headed for Extinction", issues regarding the technology and services are discussed.

ABA Survey finds e-Filing and e-Service on the Rise

Thanks to a note via Kendall Collins Smith of Lexis-Nexis (one of the sponsors) we learned of the release of a recent survey created by the American Bar Association on Litigation and Courtroom Technology including the use of e-filing.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Eight Rules of E-Filing: Rule #3


Rule Number 3: Design Backwards 


Information presentation should be designed around the work tasks that a judge or clerk performs.  Malcolm Gladwell in his article, “The Social Life of Paper” explains:

“It is only if paper's usefulness is in the information written directly on it that it must be stored. If its usefulness lies in the promotion of ongoing creative thinking, then, once that thinking is finished, the paper becomes superfluous. The solution to our paper problem, they write, is not to use less paper but to keep less paper. Why bother filing at all? Everything we know about the workplace suggests that few if any knowledge workers ever refer to documents again once they have filed them away, which should come as no surprise, since paper is a lousy way to archive information. It's too hard to search and it takes up too much space. Besides, we all have the best filing system ever invented, right there on our desks -- the personal computer.”

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

8th Conference on Privacy and Public Access to Court Records

The Center for Legal and Court Technology and the National Center for State Courts, with the assistance of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, have announced the eighth edition of the Privacy and Public Access to Court Records Conference to be held in Williamsburg, Virginia on November 3-4, 2011.  Some topics from the agenda include an update on state policies, technology trends and issues panel, social media, issues relating to family law and privacy, international perspectives, and a special presentation on an experimental initiative with streaming video in a Massachusetts court.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

CTC-2011 Educational Agenda Posted

The educational session agenda for the CTC-2011 conference have been posted.  There is more information coming but I can share a few highlights.  First, CITOC has created an entire track of sessions for court CIO's that addresses the entire life-cycle of court IT management.  Second, there are many sessions sharing innovations in the court automation and how courts have transitioned to new technology, and re-engineered processes and their organization to take advantage of the new electronic world.  Third, there are many sessions looking toward the future including next generation technology standards, new information sharing approaches and the application of new technologies in the courtroom. And one can't forget that CTC has the largest court technology vendor show in the world with all the latest systems and ideas.

CTC-2011 will be held from October 4-6, 2011 at the Long Beach, California Convention Center.

Full descriptions of the sessions will be posted in the near future.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Eight Rules of E-Filing: Rule #2

Rule Number 2: User authentication must be designed into the overall e-filing solution.

For too long court E-filing has been generally limited to civil case matters.  This is perfectly understandable from a legal viewpoint since the parties and/or court can simply agree to its use.  But today we should design E-filing systems to deal with all case types such as criminal and juvenile that has a decidedly greater need for user verification.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Eight Rules of E-Filing: Rule #1


Rule Number 1: All documents created by the court are stored in the electronic document management system (EDMS) are designated as “the official record”.

Why this rule?  Because many courts have and continue to maintain dual paper and electronic systems have reported that they have not benefited from their document management systems - simply because they are maintaining two systems.  Needless to say, doubling the number of systems is not a recipe for efficiency.  And while is takes time to transition from the paper file room to the electronic document system, the sooner that the conversion takes place, the better.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

2011 NIEM National Training Event


IT professionals from government and industry will gather in Philadelphia to learn more about the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM), sharing their implementation experiences, celebrating their accomplishments, demonstrating helpful development tools, providing domain updates, and discussing effective strategies for information sharing.  Among the five concurrent tracks, keynote speakers, and special events, here are a few highlights to pique the interest of state and local court leaders:

Oklahoma AOC Information Exchange:  A Use Case for NIEM Enterprise Implementation
National Association of State CIOs:  State and Local Panel
Human Services Collaborations:  Information Exchange Across the Digital Divide
LinkedIn’s Vice President of Strategic Alliances

Visit the NIEM 2011 Training Event website to view the entire NIEM NTE agenda, register, and reserve your accommodations at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Eight Rules of E-Filing (Introduction)

As in any technology project, the “devil” is in implementation and acceptance of the new system by the judges and court staff.  E-filing affects every part of the court operation since it transforms the filing system and the documents used to make court decisions.

Case Management Systems (CMS) have traditionally automated the registry/docket (historical event record), participants, and scheduling /task control and has left the document filing system for separate image document management programs.  This has primarily been done because of cost and the lack of workflow and task control capabilities in traditional CMS.

But I believe that this is also a remnant of the courts traditional organizational division between the docket/registry/indexing function and the document filing system.  Separate staff and separate processes are a common organizational structure in many clerk's offices.

Even today a great majority of courts still maintain physical case files.  And workflow in manual file systems has meant physically moving the file folder from person to person and office to office.  In many courts the file folder also serves as the case event registry.  This function is addressed by a printed registry form grid on the folder cover the list of documents contained within.  The advantage for this approach is that when one works on the contents of the folder, the data capture and presentation is literally in one’s hands.

Bestselling author, Malcolm Gladwell explains in his article “The Social Life of Paper” the attractiveness of this approach in a collaborative work environment like the court:

“Because paper is a physical embodiment of information, actions performed in relation to paper are, to a large extent, made visible to one's colleagues. Reviewers sitting around a desk could tell whether a colleague was turning toward or away from a report; whether she was flicking through it or setting it aside. Contrast this with watching someone across a desk looking at a document on a laptop. What are they looking at? Where in the document are they? Are they really reading their e-mail? Knowing these things is important because they help a group coordinate its discussions and reach a shared understanding of what is being discussed.” 

But the same capability can be done with even more ease in an E-filing/Electronic Document Management system as will be discussed in later posts in this series.

E-filing, document, and case management functionality cannot be separated.  Many courts have tried what is now termed an “e-delivery” systems.  This is where the documents are electronically submitted only to transfer the work of printing, collating, and storing the paper into the physical file folder to the court staff.  One can imagine the additional workload for court staff that negates the initial efficiencies of E-filing.  These projects have been shuttered after a period of time because E-filing did not reduce but rather increased the clerk's staff workload.

Over the next several weeks we will offer eight rules of E-filing systems implementation.  However, please note that there are many additional factors in any successful implementation as defined in classic project management structures including proper governance, budget, testing, and communication that cannot be ignored.  So please keep that in mind as you read our "rules".

Saturday, June 18, 2011

International Conference on Electronic Litigation 2011


The Singapore Academy of Law are organising the “International Conference on Electronic Litigation 2011” in Singapore this August. The Organizing Committee has extended a very warm invitation to attend the Conference which will be held on 11 and 12 August 2011 at the Marina Mandarin Hotel, Singapore.

The Conference will feature two keynote speakers, Lord Justice Rupert Jackson of the Court of Appeal in the UK and Judge of Appeal Justice V K Rajah of the Supreme Court of Singapore. The key objective of the Conference is to gather legal luminaries from all over the world to discuss and confer on international developments in electronic litigation. These include electronic discovery, electronic hearings, the preservation of electronic evidence and the duty on litigants and lawyers to preserve such evidence. Other topics in this rapidly evolving area of the law include a discussion on recent developments in computer forensics and common issues faced by computer forensic experts. Judges, legal practitioners, in-house counsel and academics from all over the world will be invited to attend the Conference. Speakers and panelists will be drawn from the Judiciary, the legal industry and academia to represent a full range of views.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

New Hampshire Seeks E-Courts Staff

The New Hampshire Administrative Office of the Courts have posted two job announcements.

The first announcement (pdf) is for a two year appointment as the E-Courts Project Manager.

And the second job posting (pdf) is a one year appointment for an E-Courts Statutes/Rules Analyst.

For additional information, a summary of the courts 2010-2012 Information Technology Plan (pdf) can be viewed/downloaded by clicking here.



Wednesday, June 15, 2011

NIEM Children, Youth, and Family Services Domain Draft Released

The governance team of the National Information Exchange Model's Children, Youth, and Family Services Domain (NIEM CYFS) invites you to review and critique its new schema.  We appreciate your feedback and ask that you send your comments to dgraski@ncsc.org by July 15, 2011.

The beta version of CYFS 2.1.1 can be viewed in several formats.  For a comprehensive list of all of the elements (properties), types, and code lists (enumerations), this html view works best:  http://www.waterholesoftware.com/downloads/cyfs211/cyfs211.html.  Several other tools found at http://cyfsdomain.org enable keyword searches and graphical views (e.g., NIEM Wayfarer).

The purpose of the CYFS domain is to support timely, complete, accurate, and efficient information sharing among the child support, child welfare, juvenile justice, family court, and related partners that can help improve outcomes for children and youth whose circumstances make them particularly vulnerable.  The inaugural content for the domain – part of NIEM 2.1’s release in September 2009 – was extracted from extension schema specifying national reference models for six data exchanges between courts and child-support enforcement agencies, and between courts and child welfare agencies.  The CYFS Domain release planned for August 2011 will integrate the Juvenile Justice XML data model developed by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Juvenile Information Sharing Initiative.  In addition, the August 2011 domain update will include data elements from three notification exchanges (court event, representation, and placement change).

The National Judicial-Child Support Task Force, sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), developed two information exchange models using NIEM’s predecessor, the Global Justice XML Data Model.  The Task Force included representatives from state and tribal CSE agencies and courts, staff from OCSE’s regional and central offices, and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC).  The Initial Request for Remedy IEPD describes the agency’s case-initiation message to the court; the Child Support Order IEPD describes the court’s findings and judgment concerning the financial responsibilities of a child’s non-custodial parent.

The Court/Child Welfare National Exchange Template (NET) Project developed several national reference models to describe the exchange of information between a state or county child welfare agency and a court with jurisdiction over child abuse, neglect, and dependency cases.  The NET team included representatives from HHS ACF Children’s Bureau’s Division of State Systems, two of the Children’s Bureau’s National Resource Centers (Child Welfare Data & Technology, and Legal & Judicial Issues), representatives from state and local child welfare agencies and courts, and NCSC.

OJJDP’s National Juvenile Information Sharing Initiative (NJIS) worked with one of its JIS pilot sites to identify and develop several high-priority data exchange specifications, including education messages between juvenile probation, law enforcement, and a public school district.  In a collaborative effort, OJJDP’s NJIS worked with the University of Massachusetts Medical School to develop the data exchange for  the Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument (MAYSI-2).  This data exchange has been successfully implemented at one of the NJIS’s pilot sites.  Additional data exchanges developed include information regarding a serious, habitual offender direct intervention (SHODI), record of law enforcement’s Field Contact with a juvenile, and Human Service placement and services exchanges.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Notes on Court Document Redaction


Our friends at Princeton University's Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP) have posted a very interesting article "Studying the Frequency of Redaction Failures in PACER".  As most of you know, PACER is the US Federal Courts program for access to court case management and case documents that have been either E-filed or scanned.  CITP author Timothy B. Lee explains the differences in PDF and other formats that are used in electronic document systems and the software they developed to study the problem (which they make available).  The article ends with a discussion on technical approaches that could be used to address the redaction issue.

In addition, there are other technical resources available.  For example, if you use Adobe Acrobat Pro one might want to check out a couple of web pages and videos on subject here and here.

Today courts are often placing the burden of redaction upon the litigants.  The Wyoming courts have earlier this year released new rules on document redaction that can be viewed here.

And other redaction rules have been posted by the following courts:
Note - the accompanying graphic was adapted from the publically available picture of a redacted page from the ACLU vs. Ashcroft lawsuit.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

NY's top administrative judge calls for legislation mandating e-filing

Last week I noted the huge amount of legislative interest and activity on e-filing. At almost the same time, NY's Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau was delivering her report urging legislation be adopted to mandate the use of e-filing in the state's courts. The report, eFiling in the New York State Courts: Report of the Chief Administrative Judge to the Governor, the Chief Judge, and the State Legislature, was created in fulfillment of a legislative request for information on the state's existing system and its status. The report includes the following ringing endorsement of e-filing.


Over [the last] twelve years, e-filing has shown itself to be reliable, efficient, convenient, and secure. It allows court papers to be filed and served, virtually instantaneously, at any time and from anywhere, without the need to go to the courthouse. It allows online access to case files by counsel anywhere at any time. It also sharply reduces record storage, retrieval and reproduction costs, completely eliminates the burden and expense of serving papers on opposing parties, and minimizes the need to travel to the courthouse. The result is significant cost savings for litigants, attorneys, the courts, and County Clerks. Indeed, it is estimated that universal mandatory e-filing would reduce the cost of litigation by hundreds of millions of dollars a year, with much of this savings inuring to the businesses and the state and local governments that so often litigate in our courts. With the potential to eliminate the filing and service of hundreds of millions of pieces of paper each year, e-filing is also the key to a greener, more environmentally responsible justice system.


Friday, June 3, 2011

Roundup of e-filing legislation

As courts move to more expansive use of electronic filing, more than technical issues have come up. Two in particular (financing and dated statutory language) require the active participation and permission of legislatures for implementation. This year saw several new laws and some bills still currently active that would go a long way to help, or in the case of New Mexico harm, e-filing and the courts. Among the bills:
Law

South Dakota HB 1038 Requires clerk of Supreme Court collect certain fees for the electronic transmission of court records. Signed into law by Governor 2/17/11.

Virginia SB 1369 Provides that clerks may charge a fee of $25 for civil or criminal proceedings filed electronically and an additional $10 fee for subsequent filings in such proceedings. Requires fee go to clerk's local fund to cover operational expenses of the electronic filing system. Clarifies that clerks may provide official certificates and certified copies of records that contain personal identifying information electronically upon request of a party or attorney. Makes various changes to clerks' duties regarding electronic filing. Signed into law by Governor 3/26/11.

On Governor’s desk awaiting action

Florida SB 170 Requires each state attorney and public defender to electronically file court documents with the clerk of the court and receive court documents from the clerk of the court. Requires the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association and the Florida Public Defender Association report to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by a specified date on the progress made to use the Florida Courts E-Portal system or the clerks' offices portals to electronically file and receive court documents, etc. Approved by full House 5/4/11. To Governor for approval.

For a list of other state activity, check out Issue 5:21 of Gavel to Gavel.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Projects and Notes - June, 2011

We have received many notes on court technology projects, thanks to our friends, that we want to pass along.  So here goes.

LegalXML Electronic Court Filing (ECF) Issues Portable Media Draft

The OASIS LegalXML Electronic Court Filing TC members have produced a Committee Specification Draft (CSD) and submitted it for 30-day public review for the ECF 4.0 Portable Media Service Interaction Profile.  The profile may be used to store ECF 4.0 message transmissions to portable media in the absence of an active network between the sending and receiving MDEs.  For more click here.

iPad/iPhone Deposition Support (thanks Carlene)

The iPhone J. D. blog shares a step-by-step guide for using that device to recreate a scene in/for a deposition.

iPads as Kiosks (thanks Jim D)

Apple stores are using iPads as very attractive kiosk devices.

Montgomery County Ohio E-Filing Training and Support (thanks Anne)

A very nice Q & A page was created by the Montgomery County (Dayton) Ohio E-filing project following their webinar training.  They have also posted their PowerPoint presentations and other very useful information from their project.

"Judges Walk Tightrope With Online Presence" (thanks EZ)

The Recorder legal newspaper in California posted an article on issues facing judges using social media.

Oregon Courts Choose CMS (Press release)

DALLAS – June 2, 2011 – Tyler Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: TYL) today announced that the State of Oregon has selected Tyler’s Odyssey® Court Management System for statewide implementation supporting all state trial courts. Odyssey supports Oregon’s eCourt goal of using technology to streamline court processes, reduce costs from handling and storing paper files, provide around-the-clock access to court information, and provide better information for judicial decision-making. Please click here for the full press release.

Court Videoconferencing

News articles from Tennessee and Georgia.





Thursday, May 26, 2011

Federal Courts Work on their Archives

Another excellent article in the US Federal Courts newsletter. The Third Branch from their May, 2011 edition shares news of recent work being done by the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management Records Subcommittee.

The article, Making Room-Saving History, summarizes work being done by the Federal Courts with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to reduce the massive accumulation of records that "cost the Judiciary over $6.2 million last year".

The article notes:

""Records had accumulated for decades and had become an unmanageable mass," said Judge Steven Merryday (M.D. Fla.), then chair of the Records Subcommittee, part of the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (CACM). "With the potential of rising storage costs, we were facing catastrophic budget consequences." Merryday's subcommittee began by looking for ways to preserve what needed to be kept and what could be disposed. They sought the advice of the head of the National Archives and court representatives. The subcommittee went over, code by code, what would be found in a file, and agreed on what should be preserved. Then they made their recommendations to the full CACM Committee and then to the Judicial Conference."

The article further notes:

This is the first time in more than 30 years that NARA has been able to dispose of any federal court case records. They've begun with paper civil case files dating back to 1970. But before they dispose of any files, courts have the ability to designate "non-trial temporary case" files between 1970 and 1995 as historic. These files will be retained and stored. All cases filed at any time that proceeded to trial, and all cases filed before 1970 are automatically designated permanent and will not be destroyed. The remaining cases will be indexed and become easier to access.

What is considered historically significant? The CACM Committee, working with NARA, federal judges, historians, and academics, proposes that certain case records be designated permanent. Cases of historic significance would involve particular issues such as state reapportionment cases, civil rights voting cases, treason, national security, family farm and historic bankruptcy cases, and death penalty habeas corpus cases. Judges and clerks of court also are asked to designate cases that:
  • Involved a lawyer, litigant, or witness of historical interest or importance;
  • Involved an issue of historical interest;
  • Involved a matter of national interest separate from the issues in the litigation; or
  • Received substantial media attention at the time.
Several state courts have done similar work including promenently the New York State Judiciary Records Management program.  For a list of their policies click here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Wireless Device Guidelines for Federal Courts

The April, 2011 edition of the Federal Courts Third Branch newsletter contains a timely article: Wireless Device Access Guidelines Strike Balance.  The article begins:

“The American public loves the convenience of their wireless communication devices—PDAs and laptops, smart phones and earpiece devices, among others. It’s estimated there are 285 million cell phone users in the United States.

However, the same devices that provide convenience in communications may raise security concerns in federal courts and possibly disrupt proceedings. Courts have responded with a variety of access policies.

To help strike the right balance between security concerns and convenience, the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management, in consultation with the Information Technology Committee and the Judicial Security Committee, has issued revised guidance for courts to consider that updates how new technologies could be used and what this may mean for courts.”

Friday, May 20, 2011

Documents as a Two Way Street

Electronic document software should be able to do more to help us do our work in the courts. One problem has been the current inability for the software that has been implemented to be able to work together. For example, when a judge creates an order, they most often create the document in a word processing program, save it; possibly convert it to  PDF; then in turn it is ideally e-filed or less ideally, scanned or printed. Then the data is manually entered into the case management system (CMS). No wonder many court users have a dim view of automation “productivity” when put through these multiple and often confusing steps? But it doesn't have to be that way.

All major word processing and forms software has the ability to merge data from a database into a document when created. Many CMS have been doing this since the early 1980’s via mail merge functionality. But most don’t realize that one can identify data entry fields (see this Microsoft Word example article) so that the data can be “read” for data entry by the database. Therefore the new scenario could be: first, the judge or clerk would select the document to be created; the database in turn would be called upon to complete/merge the known data into the document. When complete, the data added by the user would in turn be read by the system and automatically entered into the CMS database. This helps the judge/clerk accomplish their task and, avoids the need for subsequent data entry and other steps. This is the two way street. But just as important, the document itself should be automatically stored or attached as part of the CMS database so that it is an integral part of the court record.

In other words, this approach minimizes multiple steps as well as complexity. And since the major technology vendors have provided the ability to do full text search of documents stored in their databases, the court users can retrieve document data both through the case number but also using “Google” type searches. For discussion of Microsoft database search capabilities click here and here and for Oracle click here.

Bottom line: the technology vendors have been working hard over the past decade to make things work together… it is up to court technology developers to use that capability to benefit the daily work of the judges and court staff.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

E-Filing / E-Reader Notes

Western District of Virginia Federal Court

Courts are starting to express addition control over the form and format of E-filed documents.  For example, via Virginia Lawyers Weekly we learn that the Western District of Virginia District Court has requested that large scanned PDF attachments be handled separately and submitted in separate 10 MB file attachments. The complete court rule can be read here.

Texas Appellate Courts1

The Supreme Court of Texas has made E-filing a promenant place on their website.  In addition to the link to their rules, there is a link to a paper by attorney Don Cruse and Clerk of Court Blake A. Hawthorne's paper: Appellate Briefs of the Future that contains excellent guidance on preparing "e-briefs".  Attorney Cruse' further provides valuable information via his SCOTXBlog including a call for comments on how e-briefs are really being used.

US Supreme Court

And last, in an article we missed late last year we learn that two US Supreme Court justices have been using e-readers, the iPad and Kindle.

Notes:
(1) Thanks to Kendall Collins Smith and her OneLegal Blog for this lead


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Trust and E-Filing

There is a significant differentiation between e-filing systems design to address inherent issues between trusted and un-trusted E-filers.  Let me explain:

An article by former Public Broadcasting System “pen-named” columnist, Robert X. Cringley. "The T Word" discussed the concept of trust.  He wrote:

“(T)rust is … based on one of two methodologies — empiricism or transparency” The essence of empirical trust in this instance is “I trust because I don’t need to trust because I am (or soon will be in the rube scenario) immune to harm.” This immunity comes from a mathematical proof, whether that proof is provided by a strongly encrypted password on a computer file or by the hedging of counter-parties in some complex financial derivatives play. Empirical trust is a zero-sum game.”

“Trust through transparency is a completely different creature based on the novel idea that people say what they mean, do what they say they will, and make things that work because you can see how they work inside.”

E-filing systems that are based using Electronic Filing Service Providers (EFSP - see note 1 below)  are essentially empirical trust systems.  The courts have “hedged” their risk by allowing the EFSP to validate the filer and handle payments.  In turn if the EFSP charges their fees via credit card that later default, well they have hedged that risk/trust via the credit card service company who absorb the loss (as would the courts if charged the credit card directly).

Also an EFSP could be another government agency that the court implicitly trusts and vouches for their user community.  A prosecutor, social service agency, or law enforcement department would maintain their authorized user access that in turn would provide identification verification for e-filing.

Finally the court themselves could develop their own “circle of trust”(2)  as have the US Federal Courts who validate their e-filing users via a sign-up and training procedure.  For example, the US Bankruptcy Court in San Diego explains on their web page that “to become a CM/ECF Registered User that one must register and complete the assigned training”

But what about E-filers, such as the self-represented, who do not use an Electronic Filing Service Provider to vouch for them?  They will have to be initially viewed as un-trusted E-filers.  There is a very old but true saying that came from a New Yorker magazine cartoon  “On the Internet, nobody knows you are a dog”.  The fact of anonymity has been a boon and curse to the users of the Internet.  In our case it is a curse because we must have reasonable assurance that the person submitting the electronic is in fact that person (or authorized person).  The risk of “spam” filings and other type of network attacks is real.  Thus since the goal is to make e-filing as accessible and convenient to use for as many persons as possible, these issues and limitations must be addressed by technology, rules, and procedures.

Some of these problems may be addressed by initiatives in many countries to create secure online identity.  For example, in April, 2011 the USA President, Barak Obama issued a "blueprint" for creating a system of digital identity.  When such systems are developed they will be of great help to the courts in adopting and implementing E-filing.

Notes:

1) EFSP - Texas ( eFiling for Courts ) and others have developed e-filing systems based upon the concept of statewide portal with the end users being serviced by private corporations known as Electronic Filing Service Providers or EFSP.

2) The “circle of trust” quote is from the film – “Meet the Parents”:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0212338/

3) The graphic accompanying this post is based upon the excellent graphics illustrating collaboration concepts published at: http://emergentbydesign.com/2010/07/01/guidelines-for-group-collaboration-and-emergence/

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Connecticut bill would require state, in consultation with judicial branch, establish e-document standards and guidelines

Cross-posted to Gavel to Gavel.

The question of standards for the authentication and storage of e-documents, in particular court documents, is getting more and more legislative attention. Connecticut's HB 6600 of 2011 is a case in point.

Some background is in order.

SB 501 of 2010 created a task force to study converting legislative documents from paper to electronic form. A similar but separate task force was created via HB 5435 of 2010 to study ways in which state agencies and departments could reduce or eliminate duplicative procedures and the amount of paper used and how, when practicable, technology can be employed to help in such reduction or elimination.

The judiciary testified before both task forces. Efforts to end transcription of legislative proceedings were opposed by the judiciary, as witnessed by the testimony of Deputy Chief Court Administrator Judge Patrick l. Carroll, III (page 79). Chief Court Administrator Judge Barbara M. Quinn submitted testimony to the state agency paper task force noting among other things the court's use of e-filing and review of its business processes.

The resulting legislation, HB 6600 of 2011, contains a litany of ways to avoid paper, such as reducing the number of copies of statutes that get distributed (the number going to the judiciary would decrease and probate courts would have to specifically request copies) and moving much of the legislative process online.

For the courts, another element of note is Section 28:
Not later than January 1, 2012, the State Librarian shall, in consultation with the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, the Commissioner of Administrative Services, the Chief Information Officer of the Department of Information Technology, the executive director of the Joint Committee on Legislative Management and the Chief Court Administrator of the judicial branch, establish standards and guidelines for the preservation and authentication of electronic documents. (emphasis added)
HB 6600 was approved by the Joint Government Administration and Elections Committee and is currently pending final action in the House and Senate.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

E-Filing coming soon to the Pennsylvania appellate courts

According to the The Legal Intelligencer (subscription required) the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts is hoping to launch an e-filing system for a limited number of appellate filings, including petitions for allowance of appeal to the Supreme Court, by the end of 2011. Justice J. Michael Eakin, the liaison justice for technology in the Pennsylvania courts, said that initially, e-filing will be optional. Superior Court prothonotary Karen R. Bramblett told the Philadelphia Bar Association last week the e-filing system will build on the appellate court's case management system and other existing case management systems, including the statewide criminal case management system.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Court technology is at the forefront of most State of the Judiciary Addresses

At a time of tightening budgets, almost every state chief justice that has made a State of the Judiciary Address in 2011 has touted the benefits (financial or otherwise) of technology and the courts. Below are some highlights from those speeches.

The KIS division of the National Center for State Courts has an archive of 2011, 2010, and previous years State of the Judiciary addresses located here.

Alabama Almost all court forms now online e-forms. Use of direct deposit, online personnel/HR functions. Elimination of AOC weekly mailings in favor of phone/email. Use of computers in lieu of fax machines. Voice response system and website for child support and traffic payments. 100% e-filing for civil matters. Criminal e-filing program being expanded. Applications being developed for Family Court and juvenile cases. All training, registration, etc. for judicial education online. Pilot prison-to-court video hearings.

Alaska Successful Electronic Discovery pilot program (criminal cases). Use of YouTube videos for self-represented litigants. Statewide case management system (CourtView) in all 44 court locations.

Colorado Building statewide e-filing system. 2010 implementation of public access system.

Connecticut Website in English and Spanish.

Georgia 2010 implementation of Supreme Court e-filing system.

Hawaii
More reliance on electronic case management system (JIMS) and expansion in 2010 to e-filing in appellate courts. E-filing to be implemented in criminal courts, followed by civil and family courts. Electronic bench warrant program won two awards in 2010. $15 million through electronic traffic collections system since 2007.

Idaho Provide online assistance through an interactive interview process to complete 160 court-approved forms for litigants. Updates and improvements to statewide case management system (ISTARS). ISTARS use for tax refund interceptions. Work with law enforcement to develop and implement electronic citations. Intend to implement electronic filing of documents in trial courts.

Indiana Electronic system notifies law enforcement when protection order filed and allows for online request for such orders. In future, requestors will receive notice of order by e-mail. Electronic system notifies law enforcement when person adjudicated mentally ill. Tax warrants now sent electronically directly to local courts. 200+ police departments not use Electronic Citation and Warning System. Extensive use of court case management system (Odyssey) in 77 courts in 26 counties. “Indiana’s courts are creating a 21st Century system...”

Iowa Testing e-filing and document retrieval system (EDMS) and expect full implementation in 5-6 years. Website allows online requests for justices and judges to come to communities to speak. Website video cast of Supreme Court proceedings suspended due to budget cuts.

Kansas Use of e-filing.

Maine Previously, eliminated technology duplication. E-filing is ultimate goal. Fines/tickets now paid online. Domestic violence orders and conditions of release on bail are now electronic. Use of centralized electronic warrant repository. Creation of “criminal information electronic broker” to sweep data in criminal cases from the court system into the State Bureau of Identification.

Nebraska Electronic payment system collected over$5 million in traffic fines in 2010, as well as over $2 million in other costs and fines. Electronic filing gaining momentum, with over 50% of new civil filings in county court systems made electronically. Last District Court not already part of unified computer system, will be converted in a matter of weeks; last Juvenile Court in months. Development of on-line interactive court forms. “No branch of this government is working harder to implement technology.”

Nevada Technology in the Courts – web cast, public information portals, E-filing, E-tickets.

New Mexico Expanding use of videoconferencing. New statewide case management system, including conversion of all papers filed in court into e-documents... New remote electronic filing. Work with law enforcement and others to coordinate electronic citations.

North Dakota Upgraded trial court case management system expected to be completed within budget and nearly two months ahead of schedule. Moved into a paper-on-demand environment where documents are electronically filed or scanned and stored as images.

South Carolina “Use of modern technology to automate court processes has been the centerpiece of my administration...” Could not afford a big mainframe computer system, with expensive hardware, software and maintenance cost, Internet-based platform instead. After 10 years have hit goals to create high-speed connectivity, create statewide uniform case management software, create websites for each county Clerk's office and for the state Judicial Branch, create a 24/7 call center providing on-going support for each county, and provide a standardized imaging system for putting paper documents into an automated system. Statewide Court Case Management System now 96 percent deployed; 100 percent in summer 2011. 29 counties IT hosted by S.C. Judicial Department. To pay for system described, business plan is to create a state-owned electronic filing system, based on a minimal fee, less than the federal fees or any other state. Build cost: $5 million. Expected to generate $7 million a year when operational.

South Dakota Updating computer software programs. Vendor selected and recommended a four year implementation program for new case management system. At the end of implementation in 2015, all programs up-to-date and electronic filing a reality.

Utah The push towards “e-everything“. Use of electronic record for all court business in all courts. Already launched e-filing in civil cases, e-payment of fees/fines/restitution, e-documents, e-warrants, e-citations. E-filing of criminal cases developed and awaiting launch of prosecutor's system.

Washington State “The core of what brings our hundreds of courts together every day is the Judicial Information System (JIS). Essentially, JIS equals justice…” Vehicle Related Violations Exchange under development will eliminate the need to physically transfer paper tickets to the courts. Creation of “JusticeNet”, an effort to use technology and broadband capability throughout the state to deliver information and services including courts, libraries, community centers, legal aid and defender organizations, the prosecutors association, the state bar and others.

Wyoming Electronic filing and docket management in the Supreme Court. Docket management system in about half of district courts and e-filing to follow. After district courts, circuit courts. Public computer terminals in some circuit courts already, rest to get terminals by end of 2011. Most judicial districts have video conferencing capability and are learning to use effectively. “next technological leap”: electronic citations and electronic payment of fines.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Federal Archives Posts FAQ on E-Records

Courts are naturally concerned with the myriad of issues on archiving electronic records.  The USA federal government National Archives have posed a new Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page regarding the use of the PDF/A-1 standard with their systems.  There have also posted other useful information including:

Electronic Records Management Overview
Records Management Handbook
Records Management Toolkit
Records Management Policy and Guidance
Electronic Records Guidance 

And of course information they have pages on their groundbreaking Electronic Records Archives project.



Wednesday, April 20, 2011

OK: Making a search of online court records an official part of a background check for child care workers

The use of state court case management systems to run do-it-yourself background checks is common. There are a myriad of problems on relying solely on this of course, but the practice is not unheard of. Oklahoma, however, has taken it a step further and mandated these searches using the Oklahoma State Courts Network (OSCN).

Under HB 2643 of 2008, any person making an application to establish or operate a child care facility and their employees must first be run against OSCN, in addition to a national "criminal history records search."

SB 674 of 2011 clarifies the requirements and procedures for obtaining the OSCN and national criminal history records checks for individuals who own, work, live in, or have unsupervised access to children in child care facilities.

The 2011 bill appears likely to pass, having been approved by the Senate on March 10 and the House Human Services Committee on April 12.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Canadian Centre for Court Technology Announces New Director

Via press release, March 31, 2011:  The Board of Directors of the Canadian Centre for Court Technology - Centre canadien de technologie judiciaire (CCCT-CCTJ) today announced the appointment of Patrick Cormier as Chief Executive Officer.


The Co-Chairs of the Board, Ray Bodnarek, Deputy Attorney General of Alberta and Justice Frances Kiteley, Ontario Superior Court of Justice indicated that the members of the Board are delighted that Patrick had agreed to take on the responsibilities of CEO.

The Mandate for the CCCT is:

  • to provide leadership, and act as a catalyst to bring together stakeholders in order to create an atmosphere favourable to technological innovation and excellence in our court systems so as to enhance access to justice;
  • to support the preparation and promotion of guidelines and best practices needed to achieve interoperability among the various justice information systems;
  • to provide the tools and activities needed to exchange information and share knowledge about successful and unsuccessful experiments in fields of justice technology, pertinent to the Canadian context;
  • to play an active role in identifying and promoting best practices in relation to court technology and technology-related policies.

Patrick Cormier is a social media, technology and information management expert and president of Government 2.0 Think Tank Inc. His firm provides advice to government Departments and Agencies on how to best advance their information management and web 2.0 agenda. Prior to founding Government 2.0 Think Tank Inc., Mr. Cormier was a military lawyer from the Office of the Judge-Advocate General of the Canadian Forces. He regularly provides social media legal issues sessions to judges across the country under the auspices of the National Judicial Institute.  Patrick is familiar  with the CCCT-CCTJ as a result of his work as Intelleader for the Court Websites Intellaction Working Group which is tasked with preparing vendor-neutral guidelines to promote the modernization of Canadian court web sites.

A bilingual Quebec Bar Member, Patrick graduated from McGill University (common law and civil law programs) and from Coll├Ęge militaire royal de Saint-Jean in 1992 (B.Sc.).

Initially Patrick will serve on a part-time basis while he continues to operate his firm, Government 2.0 Think Tank Inc.

With the resounding success of the inaugural Forum on Court Technology in September 2010, the Board is looking to Patrick to  further establish CCCT-CCTJ’s presence as the leader in court technology in Canada.

More information on the Canadian Centre for Court Technology - Centre canadien de technologie judiciaire can be found at http://ccct-cctj.ca/


Friday, April 15, 2011

Texas bill would require courts, judicial agencies post "high-value data sets" online

Cross-posted to Gavel to Gavel.

Novelist and attorney George Higgins once quipped that "Data is what distinguishes the dilettante from the artist." Whether true or not, the press for data, especially from courts, is an ongoing saga.

Into this comes Texas' SB 701 of 2011. The bill, as approved on a 31-0 vote of the the Texas Senate last week, would require "state agencies" (which for these purposes include any "board, commission, office, department, or other agency in the...judicial...branch of state government") to post high-value data sets online. Said "high-value data" must:

  1. be raw data;
  2. in an open standard format that allows the public to search, extract, organize, and analyze the information;
  3. accessible from the the agency's Internet website home page under a uniform resource locator suffix "data"; and
  4. be not more than two mouse clicks from the agency's Internet website home page

So, what is a "high-value data set"? According to the bill, it includes any information that meets any of the following criteria:

  1. can be used to increase state agency accountability and responsiveness
  2. improve public knowledge of the agency and its operations
  3. further the core mission of the agency
  4. create economic opportunity
  5. respond to need and demand as identified through public consultation
Explicitly excluded is any information that is confidential or protected from disclosure under state or federal law. But things get even more interesting in the other exceptions. Data need be posted if and only if the "state agency":

  1. determines that, using existing resources, the agency can post the data set on the Internet website at no additional cost to the state; or
  2. enters into a contract advantageous to the state under which the contractor posts the data set on the Internet website at no additional cost to the state; or
  3. receives a gift or grant specifically for the purpose of posting one or more of the agency's high-value data sets on the Internet website.


The bill is currently pending in the House but not yet assigned to a committee.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dirty Consultant Tricks

InfoWorld recently published an excellent article titled - 7 dirty consultant tricks (and how to avoid them).  Unfortunately I have seen every one of these done to courts (from afar) during my more than 20 years here at the NCSC.

Conversely, a comment on the article linked to this posting on "8 Client Types That Are Nothing But a Pain in the A**" that contains some interesting observations from the consultant's viewpoint.

My experience is that if the project is poorly defined and/or they want the consultant to be the project leader are ingredients in the "recipe for disaster".  As an FYI, we try to introduce good project management techniques in our Institute for Court Management class , Managing Technology Projects and Technology Resources that is available "in-person" and online.

Please read and learn.  It will help you and your organization to avoid pain in the future.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"E is Okay"

In a release the National Resource Center for Child Welfare Data and Technology wrote that Electronic Court Orders are allowable under federal guidelines.  The statement begins:

"The electronic exchange of information between courts and child welfare agencies is a powerful tool that can lessen children’s time in foster care and efficiently provide all parties with the information they need to make timely and informed decisions about child safety, permanency and well‐being.  As an increasing number of States move towards using automated information systems and electronic court orders, questions have been raised about whether electronic records are acceptable by Federal reviewers during a title IV‐E regulatory review.  We are happy to announce, Federal policy under title IV‐E of the Social Security Act indicates that “e” for electronic is okay.

Regulations set forth in 45 CFR 1356.71 govern the review process used to determine a State agency’s compliance with title IV‐E eligibility provisions.  As part of the Federal review process, the child’s service records, including all court orders, are examined to establish that the judicial requirements pertaining to title IV‐E are met.  These include judicial determinations relating to “contrary to the welfare” and “reasonable efforts” for children who are judicially removed and “best interest” for children removed through a voluntary placement agreement.  Chapter 3 of the “Title IV‐E Foster Care Eligibility Review Guide” contains relevant guidance about the use of electronic records in the regulatory review.  The guide states the following:

The State agency may use electronic files to substantiate title IV‐E eligibility. If electronic files are used on site, the State agency should make computers and technical assistance available to the reviewers for viewing the electronic records or obtain hard copies of all the files or portions of the files that contain information relevant to the review. “"

To read the full statement (PDF) click here. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Desktop Search Engines for the Forgetful

In recent years I have been desperately looking for a search engine that can deal with 20 plus years of electronic files that have built up on my desktop computer.  I’m sure that many of you have large amounts of documents, e-mails, and other files that in the “Age of Google”, should be instantly accessible.  In recent years I have tried several desktop search engines including ones from Microsoft, Google, and the ISYS (many years ago) and Copernic systems.  The only solution that I have found that meets my needs is named X1.  X1 started as the Yahoo search engine that was later developed for the individual desktop computer.  The X1 system has the ability to index both live and archived Microsoft Outlook e-mail as well as multiple versions of word processing documents including Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, and OpenOffice.  And once indexed, I can search the titles and the contents of the documents and files.  And of course I am able to restrict the search by a particular directory or date range.

Finally, I am not alone at the NCSC in using automated search.  We use the Google Search Appliance to index everything available on the Center’s website on multiple systems.  You can try out this search online at the main NCSC website.  The search “box” is located in the upper right corner of the page.

For a list of desktop search engines click here.

Happy searching.