Thursday, April 13, 2017

This and That in Court Tech – April, 2017

Illinois' Abraham Lincoln
statue in London

In this round-up of news, we hear about E-filing in Illinois, Identity Theft in Alabama, the NAJIS annual conference, Foxit PDF on forms, warnings about legal chatbots, an article on court/legal algorithmic projects, and an interesting cloud adoption survey results article.


E-Filing Status in Illinois

We stumbled across a great chart that shows the status of E-filing implementation in Illinois.  It is very well done and besides showing whether the E-filing is permissive or I assume in the future will be mandatory, it also shows which courts accept American Express credit cards.

Alabama Court’s Public Access Used in Identity Theft Crime

From AL.COM website we learned in an AP Story posted on April 12, 2017 that:

“A man used Alabama's publicly accessible online court records to steal the identities of dozens of people, highlighting the system's vulnerability to identity thieves, federal prosecutors said.

Brian Colby Alexander is accused of obtaining names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of about 43 people from, the state's website for trial court records.
People's Social Security numbers are listed in numerous publicly accessible court records in Alabama's online system.”

The full story is available here.

FoxIt PDF Discusses Forms

In a Foxit Blog post, the author discusses the difference between Acroforms and XFA Forms.  He starts the post:

“Acroforms are the original PDF-based fillable forms, based on the PDF architecture. XFA forms are XML-based forms, wrapped inside a PDF. So, what’s the difference—and more importantly, which should you use?”

The full article is available here.

NAJIS Annual Conference Announced

Our friends at the National Association for Justice Information Systems (NAJIS) announced that their Annual Conference is scheduled for August 28-31, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio.

In their press release they write:

Attendees of the 2017 conference will discover a variety of invaluable materials and resources blended and suited specifically for local, state and federal, criminal justice practitioners. NAJIS conferences are geared to educate and demonstrate best practices for justice information system implementation and business process flow. IT technologies and standards that improve and engineer information sharing are explored in depth. Presentations are fashioned for both technical and non-technical audiences.

NAJIS focuses on delivering materials constructed for long-term, technology driven, government ROI. Information sharing mechanisms, utilizing secure, web-based technologies, such as SOA, NIEM 3.0, and GFIPM are presented comprehensively, leveraging secure gateways built to DOJ & CJIS standards. These discussions and presentations provide attendees with strategies to work smarter and with an advanced degree of fiscal insight. Grant opportunities and other funding mechanisms are explored at length, in order to provide attendees with intelligent and prudent solutions.

Chatbox Might be Bringing Low-Quality Justice Soon

Margaret Hagan’s OpenLawLab website posted some notes from a presentation by Joshua Lenon, “Lawyer in Residence at”.

He lays out an argument for wariness of the coming rise of law chat bots.

  • they often are not jurisdiction based
  • they may give people false confidence in quality of the advice
  • they are too linear and don’t allow people to go back and see how the conditions or answers change advice
  • they might divert people away from seeking out higher quality resources

This should be a public concern. First, how do we make more responsible, quality, flexible chatbots? How do we make it clear to the user what it is doing, and what it’s not (and what the user is expecting).

And we shouldn’t overestimate their power to deliver access to justice. They might be good at triage and form-filling?

How do we give systematic information, to enhance user empowerment? So people understand what is happening.

Editor's note: I think that these criticisms are all valid and that they are to be considered in our court projects.

When it Comes to Justice, Algorithms are Far From Infallible

An article posted on the Brennan Center website on March 27, 2017 by Erica Posey gives a brief overview of the various rules/algorithmic approaches that have been tried in recent times.  She starts the article:

“Early on in Tuesday’s confirmation hearing, Neil Gorsuch suggested that the judiciary may be in danger of automation. When asked how political ideology can affect judicial decision-making, Judge Gorsuch joked that “they haven’t yet replaced judges with algorithms, though I think Ebay is trying, and maybe successfully.” The joke fell flat, but Judge Gorsuch isn’t completely wrong - though Ebay doesn’t seem to have anything to do with it.”

Another editor's note: It is great to know that Justice Gorsuch is aware of online dispute resolution.  The rest of the article is available here.

Cloud/Hybrid Adoption Survey

And last, “The Register” website has a good article on Cloud/Hybrid adoption plans by their readers.  It shows slow adoption over several years which parallels what I have been observing in our courts.

Check out the full article (along with a picture of a cat in a box) here.

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