Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Federal Courts Update CM/ECF Case Management System Plans

US Federal Courts sends news of several automation related efforts including case management, discovery practice recommendations for electronically stored evidence, kiosk use in US Federal Probation offices, and videoconferencing.

The new April, 2012 "e-version" of the US Federal Courts newsletter, The Third Branch arrived the other day with several articles of interest.

CM/ECF User Study Committee Reports

First and most importantly, an article summarizing findings and providing a link to the full report from the CM/ECF study committee.  The bullet points published in the article noted the following core findings:

  • standardized user interface and filing practices across all courts.
  • a single sign-on process for seamless access to PACER and to any court CM/ECF system where a user has been admitted to file.
  • access by external users to view or file case-related information based on their role in a case.
  • expanded search capabilities for CM/ECF and PACER.
  • customizable features such as dashboards, alerts of deadlines, calendar reports that feed into local calendar software, and ad hoc query and reporting capabilities
  • a "preview" function to view the document being filed prior to submission to ensure the correct document is filed
  • elimination or increase of file size limits in a consistent manner across courts and court types.
  • allowing additional ways to batch file information to reduce the amount of data entry required.
  • allowing users to customize their electronic notices so that they can better manage of the volume of notices received and readily identify those requiring action.
  • enhanced report options to include customized reports, expanded selection criteria, and expanded formats.
  • the adoption of industry data exchange standards.

Again, the full report (PDF) is available for download by clicking here.

Second, the Administrative Office of the US Courts and the US Department of Justice issued recommended Electronically Stored Evidence Practices.  The article notes:

After 18 months of negotiation, the Administrative Office (AO) and the Department of Justice jointly have developed a set of recommendations aimed at making the production or exchange of ESI discovery between prosecutors and defense counsel more efficient and cost-effective.
“An expansion in the amount of digital data, the number of devices on which it can be created and stored, and the declining cost of storing such information have resulted in the increased presence of ESI in federal criminal litigation,” said Theodore Lidz, the AO’s Assistant Director for the Office of Defender Services. “Often the amount of information ranges from tens of thousands to millions of pages. While difficult to quantify, the expectation is that use of the recommendations will limit overall criminal justice discovery costs, reduce the number of discovery disputes, and shorten the time for processing complex cases.”
Recently, the Recommendations for Electronically Stored Information Discovery Production were sent by the deputy attorney general to all U.S. attorney offices, and by the AO to all federal defenders and Criminal Justice Act (CJA) panel attorneys. Training also has begun for defender and prosecutorial personnel.
Probation and Pretrial Services Automation Efforts

Third, US Federal Probation and Pretrial Services noted a study on the use of collecting pretrial and post-conviction reports via kiosk.

And last, US Probation and Pretrial Services also reported on the increasing use of webcam and videoconferening to offset staff reductions.

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