The demands of the modern court system are multifaceted: Besides maintaining ongoing communication and access to records between the various courts, the public also expects convenient and even real-time access to information. For a court system still heavily reliant on paper-based systems, this can place quite a strain on court staff, and quickly create frustration among all users.
How can the courts quickly get up to speed and create an environment for seamless transfer of information and access to important records, while still maintaining security of sensitive information?
Today, we’re talking once again with Scott Bade, president of ImageSoft, about the latest technology that addresses these needs, as well as the efficiencies and time-saving benefits that these solutions provide.Read Transcript
|Kate Storey:||Welcome to the Paperless Productivity Podcast, where we give you the tips, tricks, and know-how to solve your biggest workflow challenges and bring greater productivity into your workplace every day.
The demands of the modern court system are multifaceted. Besides maintaining ongoing communication and access to records between the various courts, the public also expects convenience and even real-time access to information. For a court system still heavily reliant on paper-based systems, this can place quite a strain on court staff and quickly create frustration among all users. How can the courts quickly get up to speed and create an environment for seamless transfer of information as well as access to important records while still maintaining security of sensitive information?
Today, we’re talking once again with Scott Bade, President of ImageSoft, about the latest technology that addresses these needs as well as the efficiencies and time-saving benefits that these solutions provide. Welcome back to the podcast, Scott.
|Scott Bade:||Thanks Kate.|
|Kate:||To kick things off, tell me, what are the challenges that courts are facing when it comes to handling appeals?|
|Scott:||Well, appeals have some unique problems, particularly because one court typically needs to transfer information to another court. Oftentimes part of the case file or the entire case file needs to be moved, and sometimes these files are quite large and complex, so it puts some significant burdens and time and cost upon the sender and the receiver, frankly.|
|Kate:||I imagine that there’s quite a bit of a cost that’s involved with that that can kind of add up quickly with all of those, that paper storage and copying and things like that. Is that all kind of part of the factors as well?|
|Scott:||Yeah, you could imagine. Most of the time, the upper court that’s receiving a file is going to want things in a specific format, and sometimes they even have standards of how that format should look. Things like the order of types of documents, stamping and numbering of pages in certain ways, all to make it easier for the appellate court or the upper court in some cases to use the information for their purposes because often an upper court’s requirements are different than a trial court’s. They
As you can imagine, when you’re dealing with what can be thousands of pages of records, and sometimes it’s boxes upon boxes. It can be very time consuming for a human to have to put that in the right order, stamp things, and then be able to deliver them to the upper court.
|Kate:||I know we’ve heard horror stories in the past from courts who have said that they’ve even had… it’s quite a physical burden where they’ve had to bring it up from like a basement up to different areas or things like that where it’s not only kind of cumbersome in terms of just the amount of paper, but it’s also kind of the physical work that’s sometimes expected of these courts. It’s a lot of different elements it sounds like.|
|Scott:||Yeah, and a lot of times what the lower courts will do is they’ll actually send their master case file to the upper court and then they have to work something… if someone comes and asks for that record or if there’s a FOIA request, the record is no longer in the building. It’s been transferred-|
|Scott:||And whenever you move a sensitive piece of information like that from one building to another you stand the chance of it getting damaged or lost, so that’s a big problem as well.|
|Kate:||Yeah, it’s a lot of responsibility. When it comes to these things, what types of courts and cases do we find are most often faced with these kinds of challenges?|
|Scott:||Well, it really runs the gamut from civil cases to criminal cases, but almost all types of cases can be appealed. Obviously, the more complex case, the felonies, the big domestic cases that get appealed and even the big civil cases, those can present the biggest challenges because they have such a high volume of case records. As a case goes through its life cycle, if it’s a long case it accumulates more and more information and that just makes it more complicated, but it’s really cases going from a lower trial court to an appeals court maybe at the state level and even going from a limited jurisdiction court to a general jurisdiction court in a county. That often happens, or from a city court to a county court, there’s often appeals that happen that way.
There’s also cases, particularly domestic cases, where people… those cases last a long time and often, especially if there’s children involved and if people move to another jurisdiction, to another county, to another state, which happens frequently as you can imagine, that case needs to be moved to a like court in a different jurisdiction. That’s also… has a similar need for moving a case file.
|Kate:||I imagine that it’s kind of difficult to keep track of that, too, if it’s had to move places multiple times, just trying to remember, where did it start? Where has it gone to next? It’s all part of that.|
|Scott:||That is true.|
|Kate:||Okay, so now we know what the courts are facing. How is a company like ImageSoft working with them to solve these challenges?|
|Scott:||Our main role in the courts is to help the courts go paperless, so we identify particular areas like this that need technology or can really benefit from technology and we develop software for that. We’ve developed a product called CaseShare in conjunction with one of our courts in Virginia that had some very specific state requirements for how the format of the case file needed to be transferred.
We looked at their need and we thought it was a fairly consistent need across the country, and even in different countries, and we said, “This should really be more than just a single solution. This should be a product that could be available to other people.” That’s what we did. We built CaseShare, and along with our customer in Arlington, Virginia, they helped us with full knowledge that this would be something that would be useful for other courts.
|Kate:||Right. What are some of the benefits that a court like Arlington has seen as a result of implementing CaseShare?|
|Scott:||Well, a lot of the benefits… we’ve mentioned just time savings, cost savings. There’s also a lot of savings in consistency. They’re able to send things much more accurately the first time because the system helps them package things appropriately. Their format is very complicated in Virginia, as it is in most states, so to get for a human to remember all of the rules that are contained in the state statute for compiling that record is very difficult. The system helps them stay within the guardrails, if you will, of the rules and so they deliver. What they’ve found is at a significantly higher rate, they are accurately delivering the case file and so it doesn’t get rejected, which obviously when it gets rejected, that just adds to the burden and doubles the effort.|
|Kate:||Are there a lot of companies out there that are doing this that you’re finding?|
|Scott:||No, we’ve looked around. We haven’t seen very many… that was part of kind of our analysis in our decision to build a product. We’ve certainly seen some of the case management systems out there that have built something for their courts. I think most of those solutions are geared towards a specific case management system, and what we find in a lot of our states is there’s a lot of different case management systems, so having one case transfer solution that is built by only one CMS maker is not going to help all that many courts. We’ve built ours independent of a particular case management system and we’ve built it more generically so that it can be applied across states and across courts that use different case management systems and, frankly, different document management systems as well.|
|Kate:||Okay, and usually you’re doing some analysis by looking at how different courts were using this and everything. Why do you think that they were either building out custom systems or just doing them solely through here? Did you find that there just wasn’t something out there in the market for it? Or what was really the reason that you were finding?|
|Scott:||Yeah, that’s a good question. There’s probably a number of factors that I’d kind of speculate on why there isn’t anything on the market really like what we’ve built. I think part of it is the technology in the past, things like the cloud didn’t really exist five years ago and you really need that sort of kind of a common infrastructure for storing and moving large amounts of data, which the cloud provides. That was a big advancement that really made this possible. I think case management vendors are building things specific for their product, which I understand, and so it’s not really in their best interest to build something generic for everybody. I can understand why the market has kind of evolved to have very specific solutions and not so many general solutions.
The other thing is that some of the folks in our industry that set standards like The National Center for State Courts have really been pushing what we call the Component Model, which is basically a framework for building applications that are a little more portable and a little more interchangeable between courts, and so that’s… we certainly buy into that philosophy and this solution also supports that philosophy.
|Kate:||I imagine… we’ve talked a few times about the Component Model here on the podcast, and I know that one of the benefits of going with that type of method is that it’s the cost and the disruption of things being switched around every couple of years. Do you find that… was CaseShare created to kind of help address that as well?|
|Scott:||Yeah. The Component Model has a lot of benefits. You mentioned a couple of them, but primarily it lets people buy the best of breed technology, so they don’t necessarily get pigeonholed into one solution or one technology. They can buy what works for them, and I think you see that in a lot of areas in technology today. The mobile phone market, for example, is fairly interchangeable between networks, so people can move from component to component and really use what works best for them.
The other approach is to use more of a monolithic system where one vendor provides all the components. That has some benefits, too. Things are probably better integrated together in general, but the cost if you wanted to change one of those components can be quite high because you have to change many components to change maybe a simple component. We believe in the Component Model and I think the market is also really moving towards a Component Model not only in courts but in other general IT areas.
|Kate:||Are there any legislative or regulatory concerns that come with this kind of a solution?|
|Scott:||We do find that there are states that have put standards in place so that folks have to deliver things to the appellate court in a certain way and a certain format, and I think that’s a good thing. I think states should do that and I think Virginia has done that, so they have a document that describes exactly how the package should be structured and our system supports that. There are still some courts that are using paper. There are still some areas of the courts that still work with paper and aren’t ready for an electronic case file, so we see some of that as well.|
|Kate:||If they’re still using paper, how can ImageSoft best help them, then?|
|Scott:||Just because the upper court is still using paper doesn’t mean that the lower court can’t benefit from CaseShare. CaseShare is used to package, to format, to stamp, to secure, and to package up a whole series of records. The fact that it also delivers an electronic copy at the end of the process, that part could be taken out and you could print the record, for example.
I’d hate to see a court do that, but if the upper court can only take paper today, that’s okay. You’d still get 80, 90% of the benefits and it would also help you if you submitted something and it needed to be fixed because you’d have the original record in electronic form. You could add a page or add a document or rearrange things and then just reprint it. You’d have some obviously additional costs of paper and toner and things like that, but I think those costs would be dwarfed by the savings in human effort.
|Kate:||I think it sounds like as you mentioned looking between files and things like that, it’s the searchability factor I imagine is also pretty attractive with having things in electronic form.|
|Scott:||Oh, that’s huge, and that’s part of the reason a lot of the appellate courts are asking for records in a consistent way so that they can find things. The nice thing about electronic records in a product like CaseShare, it does render everything into a consistent PDF format that’s text searchable, so even records that were scanned will get OCR’d so that they’re readable by a search engine so anybody can open that PDF or sections of that PDF and search for words. That text can also be stored in the upper court’s document management system and become searchable across not just a case but across maybe a whole docket of cases.|
|Kate:||Wow, okay. Is there anything else that a clerk or a court would need to know? Or what kind of other considerations that would need to be taken for this topic?|
|Scott:||I think from a clerk’s perspective, to me, a product like CaseShare is kind of a no-brainer. It’s one piece of really becoming a paperless court, which I think most courts today are striving for because they realize all the benefits. I think as you’re going through a process like this, you need to think about… we’re talking today mostly about the clerk’s needs, but there are other important parties, stakeholders in the court system. Notably, judges have very specific ways that they use case files and they differ significantly in most cases from the way a clerk uses a case file. Products like CaseShare and really just the whole digital case file need to take into consideration what the judge needs.
The judge needs to be able to work in a different environment that’s usually a much faster paced… a courtroom environment in particular where they’ve got many people and they’ve got to be able to find information much more quickly and really arrange their digital desktop, if you will, in a way that works for them in the courtroom. We work with some products that will also take this sort of layout and technology into the courtroom so that the judge can be as effective as possible.
I think that’s something we always have to think about as we’re talking about digitization and going paperless is that there are people, very important parties, and it’s not just obviously the judge and the clerks. There’s a whole slew of other stakeholders, prosecutors, folks that run the jail, probation people that also need a lot of this same data, and that’s were a flexible Component Model paperless system can really help all those parties.
|Kate:||That’s great, and it’s a lot of really good information and a lot to consider. We’ll make sure we have all this detailed out in the show notes, but in the meantime, if someone wanted to go and get some more information and find out how they could get started on this for their courts, where could they find that?|
|Scott:||The easiest way is you can go to our website, imagesoftinc.com/courts/caseshare… is some information. There’s some good details on the product. You can also, obviously, call ImageSoft. We’ve got an 800 number on our website that anybody can call and ask for more information.|
|Kate:||Great. Well, thank you again, Scott, for coming onto the podcast today and helping us better understand how CaseShare is making a difference for the courts. We really appreciate it.|
|Kate:||Thank you, everyone, for joining us today, and if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to Paperless Productivity, where we tackle some of the biggest paper-based pain points facing organizations today. We’ll see you next time.
Thanks again for joining us today for this episode of Paperless Productivity. This podcast is sponsored by ImageSoft, The Paperless Process People, which you can learn more about at imagesoftinc.com. That’s imagesoftI-N-C.com. Join us next time, where you’ll learn how to harness the power of technology, super charge efficiency, and accomplish your organization’s goals.