Thursday, 28 April 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, 26 April 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, 25 April 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.

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, 22 April 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, 20 April 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, 18 April 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

Friday, 15 April 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, 14 April 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, 12 April 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, 7 April 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.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Advice for Keeping Judges (and the rest of us) Safe Online

An interview of Stacia A. Hylton, Director of the U.S. Marshals Service in the March, 2011 edition of the U.S. Federal Court's Third Branch Newsletter contained some advice for judge's online safety.

"The explosion of the use of social media on the Internet has created a number of security challenges for the judiciary. Social media, along with the availability of personal information and public records on the Internet, create an environment of additional security risks. One such risk is the potential for the release of sensitive information. This could be as simple as a family member inadvertently posting information about the family’s home. These items can jeopardize the security of a federal judge.

Public information continues to pose challenges to the court family. For many years, the Marshals Service has advised the people we protect to have unlisted phone numbers and use the courthouse address instead of the home address whenever possible. Technology has provided greater access to information. Through computers, individuals can plug a little information into a public record search engine and receive a lot of information. For that reason, we strongly urge judges and other officials to complete “opt-out” forms for individual information providers. We have coordinated with the Administrative Office so that the opt-out information is available for judges to follow. Judges also need to be very conscious about who they give information to, and even where purchases are made. This is because data aggregators are constantly compiling and selling updated personal information to public record sites, for example, matching credit card numbers with home mailing addresses.

We have also recently begun briefing judicial officers and staff on the risk posed by “geo-tagging” of photographs posted to the Internet. GPS-enabled cameras, as well as iPhones, embed the longitude and latitude of the location a picture was taken. If, for example, a photo of a judge and his or her family is posted on certain Internet sites, someone can grab the geo-tag and identify the location of a private residence.

Just as with e-mail or phone calls, if a judge becomes aware of a threat or inappropriate communication on the Web, he or she should immediately notify the Marshals."