The Component Model and Going Beyond eFiling

By: Kevin Ledgister, Marketing Manager, ImageSoft, Inc.

IMG_1827001002 (002)The Court Technology Conference in Salt Lake City last month went far beyond all of our expectations. We were kept busy networking with court staff members, doing live demos and sharing our experiences. Thanks for stopping by our booth and attending our two major presentations.

The Component Model in Action

Jenny Bunch talked about how our methodology of technology design fits right in with the National Center for State Courts promotion of a new interoperability model for court technology vendors. NCSC wants vendors to design products as components so that a court can take advantage of the best offerings of one vendor and integrate them with those of another. We discovered early on that building large, monolithic applications makes it difficult for courts to adopt newer technology as it too often requires removing core systems just to acquire bits of new functionality. With the component model, courts can add new functionality easier. As a vendor, we can accelerate innovations because we are focusing on one component at a time.

We continue to develop future projects which offer high levels of component design. These projects include smaller sets of functionality so courts can adopt individual pieces rather than having to purchase wholesale applications that don’t integrate well with other systems.

Among the examples of courts following this idea are those in Michigan, Tennessee and California which are using new JusticeTech components integrated with an existing system. In fact, in each of these cases, we took the lead in the integration project. See our case study library to read about courts implementing JusticeTech technology to streamline court operations.

Going Beyond eFiling

Does this sound familiar? Your court has an eFiling system but clerks are still printing and routing paper around the court and spending hours or days re-keying information into a case management system that could have and should have so easily and automatically entered the needed information from the eFiled document into the CMS. Brad Smith’s presentation showed how the electronic workflow is the missing piece of the puzzle that routes documents around the court automatically, as well as sharing documents with other agencies. Courts with a decentralized judiciary are attaining a digital workflow all the way to the courtroom without the expense of replacing their existing CMS because integration is built into the technology.

Brad also discussed how any project to automate the court must involve all stakeholders because the system will touch the clerks, judges, local bar, prosecutors, the sheriff and related state agencies.

Read more reasons why eFiling alone is not enough.

The Best of Brew: A Packed House

IMG_1873001002You know it’s been a terrific conference when the afterhours reception had to be extended to allow show attendees to continue networking and sharing experiences with each other. Or maybe it was the brew?

What was your most important take-away from the CTC conference?

e-Courts 2016 Quick Review

e-Courts 2016 is “in the books”, as they say. My understanding is that video of the sessions is or will soon be available online. Check the e-Courts 2016 website for information. I strongly suggest viewing those sessions in which you have an interest when they become available.

120_conferenceStarting with Gary Marchant’s Keynote, attendees confronted the evidence that technological changes in society at large have started to overwhelm the justice system; and courts, by and large, are not prepared for it. From body camera data to genetic data to virtual reality evidence, Marchant described how new technologies are overwhelming the ability of governing institutions – including the Justice System – to cope within existing customs, laws, ethical guidelines, rules, processes, and economic models. While much of government may simply refuse to act – pass laws, promulgate regulations, etc. – courts have no choice. They are confronted with the dilemmas created; but have little to no relevant guidance from either the statutory/regulatory framework or prior experience.

Moreover, the shear size of the quantity, and variety of incoming data has begun to overwhelm the infrastructure. For example, how to handle the exploding increase in body-camera data? Not only is the amount huge; but the formats are not standardized; the courts do not have the capability to display all formats, and efforts to convert to “standard” formats constitute alteration of evidence. The need for the technology to manage the technology is manifest.

Meanwhile, as Tom Clarke, Vice President of Research & Technology, pointed out, surveys starkly reveal that the public regards the courts as extremely out of step with what are considered the minimal standards of technological competence for today’s world. In what was possibly the most memorable line of the conference, Clarke described the public’s attitude toward court technological prowess as “Bringing the public yesterday’s technology tomorrow”.

Pretty rough stuff. Still, I thought e-Courts 2016 was far and away the most HOPEFUL court technology conference I’ve ever attended. What to me was most striking was not the fact that speakers were talking about the judicial system being left in the dust. It was that most people were staying to hear it, and ask “So, where do we go from here?”

The very first session, Embracing the Accelerating Pace of Technology Change, observed that courts have moved from a place where a very few are willing to embrace newer technologies to the place where very few are still actively resisting. The session provide insights on how court managers and technologists can affirmatively advance their courts’ ability and willingness to adopt a culture that thrives on constant change.

The Courthack sessions were extremely well received – something I question would have been the case five or ten years ago. Very bright, very energetic youngsters come together to conceive of, design, and build “outside the box” (potentially disruptive of current practices and procedures) applications intended to improve the court customer experience and court product quality.

The JTC – Improving the Administration of Justice Through Technology session laid out the current major initiatives of the Joint Technology Committee – a collaborative effort of COSCA, NACM, and NCSC – to provide practical assistance for dealing with technology change . These include technology standards development, process improvement, technology training for court leaders, and dialog within and among the justice community on technology matters.

Courts disrupted (which Tom Clarke hastened to point out was way too big a topic for a single session) identified some major disconnects in the way courts may perceive their business and what their business really is. For example, the actual mix of case types varies dramatically from what courts are designed to handle. Just one example: cases involving lawyers constitute a small fraction of the total case load.

Fittingly, Good Public Policy for Innovation: Open vs. Closed Ecosystem concluded the conference. I will have more to say on this topic later. The very practical question, in facing the upheavals and the technology choices, is whether to integrate “Best of Breed” components on the one hand (“Open” ecosystem); or to build or acquire a single system that does everything (“Closed” ecosystem). The panelists did a very nice job of identifying the issues involved, the relative advantages and disadvantages.

Again, I strongly encourage you to check the e-Courts website and view some, or all the sessions. And I look forward to future conferences, white papers, and educational opportunities that build on the material presented at this conference to provide practical assistance to court leaders in the facing today’s profound changes.