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“Somebody wiser than me once said that you should ‘never waste a good crisis,’ and it seems like this pandemic has been a crisis for many of us in the court world.”

For 42 years and counting, Kevin Bowling has been serving the needs of justice administration and public service. Currently chairing the U.S. Department of Justice’s Global Advisory Committee, Kevin is now calling on his experience with the evolution of the court system to support next steps for the post-pandemic court. Speaking right into the heart of court administration, Kevin unearths all the relevant fruits of the component model, especially its role in sustaining a more inter-connected court and providing the opportunity to “plug-and-play” with various technologies that support the court’s adaption to a new normal, including litigant portals, jury management systems, and how to walk the fine line between access to justice and CJIS compliance.

 

Resources relating to the podcast can be found here:

  1. Joint Technology Committee – JTC was established by COSCA (Conference of State Court Administrators), NACM (National Association for Court Management) and NCSC (National Center for State Courts).  For more info on JTC – https://www.ncsc.org/about-us/committees/joint-technology-committee
  2. JTC develops and promotes technology standards – e.g., Court case management functional requirements; e-filing standards; jury management system requirements; ODR technical interface standards; https://www.ncsc.org/about-us/committees/joint-technology-committee/jtc-court-technology-standards
  3. In addition to developing standards, JTC recognizes information sharing initiatives and standards developed by the Global Advisory Committee (GAC), e.g., National Information Exchange Model (NIEM), Information Exchange Package Documentation (IEPD) Clearinghouse, Global Reference Architecture, Global Service Specification Packages (SSPs)
  4. Court Component Model (CCM) – In 2017 JTC’s work on the NextGen Court Technology Standards led to the development of the Court Component Model   https://www.ncsc.org/__data/assets/pdf_file/0034/18979/nextgen-court-component-model-2017-12-08-final.pdf
  5. The Court Component Model paper (JTC Resource Bulletin) describes each component, including its purpose and features.   https://www.ncsc.org/__data/assets/pdf_file/0034/18979/nextgen-court-component-model-2017-12-08-final.pdf

Check out this episode!

Read the Transcript
Steve Glisky: Welcome to the Paperless Productivity podcast, where we have experts give you the insight, knowhow, and resources to help you transform your workplace from paper to digital, while making your work life better at the same time.
Brad Smith: Thanks for joining us, my name is Brad Smith. I’m your host today and excited to be speaking with Kevin Bowling of Ottawa County, Michigan, about the value of the court component model, which I think everyone has heard about the last two or three years. Kevin, I’ve known for years, an incredible resource for court administrators, and certainly on the national stage, working with organizations like NACM, the National Center for State Courts, as well as a little known organization, which is an international one, with the US Department of Justice chairing the global advisory committee.

Today, Kevin is going to provide us background on the court component model, maybe in a little deeper fashion than what you may have heard or been involved with and really how it’s evolved over the past several years and where we could see it going moving forward.

So without further ado, Kevin, thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to come join us. If you don’t mind, maybe give a little bit more background about yourself and some of the different positions you’ve served.

Kevin Bowling: Sure, thank you, Brad. I really appreciate the opportunity to do this podcast with you and to share a little information about the value of the court component model. This is something that, while it may not sound overly exciting on the surface, it really touches the heart of what court managers are involved in day in and day out and can be really helpful and important to the work that we do in the courts.

About me personally, I’ve been hanging around courts for a long time. This year I hit 42 years in the business. I’ve spent that time moving around the country a little bit, but most of the time has been in Michigan. Early on. I did some intern work with the Denver Juvenile Court and the North Dakota Supreme Court before coming out to Michigan and then spent some time in private practice here, but also 20 years with the Michigan Supreme Court as both the regional court administrator and the state judicial educator, and then went overseas for a year for a brief interlude with the National Center for State Courts International Division, where I had a great experience working in Nigeria with the courts there. Then came back to Michigan and have spent last 18 years with the local trial courts in Western Michigan in Ottawa County, as you mentioned, serving as court administrator for the circuit court, our general jurisdiction court and from our probate court. So it’s been an interesting experience at various levels and I’ve always continued to try to learn along the way. When I pick up something new, like the component model, I like to share it with others.

Brad: That’s great. I know, and I even failed to mention this in the intro, one of the committees, and one of the things we wanted to talk about today is as we all know in the courts market, we use acronyms at nauseum, and at times a lot of people, as you were mentioning earlier, they don’t really understand some of the … Well, it’s not sexy. It certainly is of note and one of those things where you’re the co-chair is the Joint Technology Committee (JTC). So I was hoping you might be able to give some people a little bit background on who’s involved in that. I’ve been blessed with a couple of opportunities to work on projects with them over the years, but certainly it’s becoming more and more important. So if you wouldn’t mind just giving us some background on that?
Kevin: I’d be happy to, Brad. The Joint Technology Committee (JTC) has been in operation for over 30 years. Many years ago, as courts began to become more reliant on a variety of technologies, just to do our daily work and to serve the public and provide to the administration of justice, the best we can, technology becomes a real important part of that. So it was with some foresight that the Conference of State Court Administrators, another acronym there (COSCA) and the National Association for Court Management (NACM) teamed up with the National Center for State Courts (NCSC). Those three groups came together and created this group that we call the Joint Technology Committee that is only a 15 member committee with designated spots on it, but it really impacts a broad range of court operations.

So by our charter, the Conference of State Court Administrators has five members. The National Association for Court Management has five members. And then the National Center for State Courts can appoint two judges, either trial judges or appellate judges and we’ve had both over the years. Then we also have two members from CITOC, which is the Consortium of Chief Information Officers, so the technologists of the group are very important to the work that we do. then we have one member, an ex officio member from the IJIS Institute, which represents the vendor community in the United States, the community that serves, courts and court functions.

So it’s really a broad based group of people from all levels of the court system. When it was originally formed, JTC was set up to develop and promote technology standards for the courts. That was one of the primary things because there were not a lot of standards 30 years ago, and everyone was doing their own thing. As technology developed, we knew that it was going to be better for everyone involved and hopefully more cost effective for courts in the long run if a lot of the technology was more driven by standards.

The other things that the Joint Tech Committee works on is improving court processes and business practices. We might not do that directly ourselves all the time, but we continue to try to publish guidance for courts. We work on a variety of what we call resource bulletins that are available on our website. Those are great resources for individual court leaders that might have a particular problem, or an issue with technology that they want some advice or guidance on from other experts in the field.

In addition, we get involved in a lot of education and training for court leaders, and we do this through hosting different educational programs at national and regional and state conferences. We’ve also been engaged, especially during this COVID pandemic, in various webinars and online opportunities for people to learn about how technology touches the court system. We try to make sure that we push out as much as we can through our website, which is easy to find. Most folks in the court world know how to get to the National Center for State Courts website at ncsc.org. If you go to that site and, just in the search bar, search for JTC or the Joint Technology Committee, all our work will pop up very easily, including past standards and resource bulletins, information about our meetings and organizational structure, anything that folks would want to know about the committee.

Brad: Right, I do have a question because I mean, obviously during these COVID times and having worked with electronic filing, e-benches, virtual courtrooms, technology in terms of video conferencing, if you’ve seen a dramatic uptick or a lot more people seeking out you all’s guidance. I know you guys put out a tremendous amount of white papers, but I was wondering if you’ve seen more of concerted effort because as much as I’d love the government market, I’ve been at it 31 years. I certainly believe that in a weird way, hopefully this will get people to think a little bit outside of the procedural box, as it were.
Kevin: Yeah. I think that’s an important point, Brad, because somebody wiser than me once said that you should never waste a good crisis. It seems like this pandemic has been a crisis for many of us in the court world. Like you say, it has probably done more to push technology forward in the last three months than many of our committee meetings has done in the last 30 years. So it’s amazing to me to see the uptick in interest. One of the areas in particular that JTC has focused on over the last few years is the whole new field of online dispute resolution, which is often referred to as ODR, for sure.

Well, in the JTC website a few years ago, we started looking at this ODR phenomenon and began to publish some papers, looking at what it is, so that we’re all talking the same language and getting a real basic understanding of different forms of ODR and how it can be used. We have developed some technical interface standards for technologists out there that want to figure out how the secret sauce actually works behind the scenes. We’ve also recently put out a paper on judicial viewpoints on ODR, which also was pretty critical from a court manager’s perspective to understand what judges are thinking, what their concerns are, how well they think this will help. So that whole ODR field is just one area where we have seen, as you suggested, an uptick in people that are reaching out for JTC resources.

Other areas where a lot of states are getting into more and more is video technology. Many of us have been forced to take our court hearings, our trials, our judicial officer meetings and hearings and move them to online platforms of one sort or another. For many court managers who may not be technologists in their own right, that was a big challenge trying to figure out how to do it, how to do it quickly, how to make sure that you’re not only conducting hearings remotely with the parties, but perhaps adding on something like YouTube live streaming of these hearings so that the public still has access to the virtual courtroom and can see and understand what’s going on in their community if they’re interested, or the news media as well.

So those are all things that we’ve touched on in some of the guidance that the Joint Technology Committee has developed for courts and we realize that just like the pandemic we’re in right now, things change and keep changing every day. So we have to constantly review and update the work we’ve put out, where guidance becomes old or dated. We have to make sure that we try to get the latest and greatest information out to people and when we get to the point of developing standards, then to try and make sure that we’ve got the most up to date, usable information for court professionals.

Brad: Right. I mean, that’s an awesome transition for me actually because I was going to ask you, I mean, we started a court component model discussion a few years ago at multiple trade shows as well as court industry summits, with the idea of instead of just having one monolithic case management system that handles everything in the county, which takes years to develop and some things do extremely well and some things they’re not so great. So you end up getting to a point where, as opposed to that, now that you have all these standards that you were mentioning, that allows individuals be a lot more interoperable in the sense of moving forward with technology because technology changes so quickly these days and the need.

I’ve found during the COVID pandemic that now that people are interested in technology, but they want it now. I mean, they want it … It’s like uploading an email, it’s not that easy, but there are things and so if you could just … Because they’re, I know there’s a different flavor to the court component model, but if you could just briefly surmise, well not briefly, but go a little bit into the core component model and what that entails and what certain technologies are being affected by that.

Kevin: Glad to, I think it’s an interesting story because we backed into the court component model, frankly. I’m not sure that what we have right now for the court component model is what we intended when we started the conversation, but it shows how we’ve been able to be nimble and flexible, follow user needs and different types of industry advice as well. So as you said, several years ago, the Joint Technology Committee had a subgroup that we referred to as the Next Gen Court Technology Standards Group. Years and years ago, JTC developed standards for case management systems, that as you described are often seen as the monolithic systems in many courts that tried to do everything in their operations. The standards were outdated and we had been learning a lot from more recent standards work that was done by federally, by the global advisory committee, where they had developed a national information exchange model, a global reference architecture and some different types of service specification packages, all different types of standards that help various technologies integrate and interface with each other.

We started looking at that for the court management systems to see where we would go next. Brad, as you mentioned, your company ImageSoft, and a variety of other companies that are involved with the IJIS Institute from the vendor side of things, partnered with the National Center for State Courts and had some IJIS industry forums together with court professionals. Those meetings were extremely helpful because we started talking about some of these standards and everyone was talking about different variations on a theme, different functionality that courts needed and how that has grown over the years. Whether we’re talking about e-filing, or redaction, or remote interpreting, or notifications, text messaging, ODR, whatever it might be, there was a whole variety of things. As we dug into that conversation further, it appeared as though what courts were really looking for were not just simple guidance statements, or standards on case management information, but they wanted to get to the point where for lack of a better way of describing it, where they could plug and play with a lot of different technologies.

How do we integrate something quickly, nimbly with our case management system, which is the backbone, but if we want to do these other things, like we want to add a litigant portal to it, or we want to add a jury management system, or we want to add an electronic bench functionality. How do we do that in a way that maintains the integrity of our case management system, but allows us to add easily and cost effectively. So, that’s where we started talking about these things that we call components. They’re the building blocks of an overall software architecture and every single block or component has certain capabilities within itself that it’s there to do.

Let’s say we’ve got a component or a block that is just responsible for text messaging. So we can get information back and forth to parties coming into the court more effectively than we ever could before, when many of us are still relying on pony express to get notices to people. So we wanted to figure out, how do we make that experience better. We ended up looking at, in this court component model three different levels, very distinct levels.

One is looking at the basic case management components where, we look at the participants that are involved in the case. Usually, in most case management systems, there’s some kind of fiscal element, or accounting, or financial transactions. Obviously a lot of what courts do is schedule things. We have to schedule hearings and trials and sentencings and a variety of different things. So there’s got to be a basic scheduling or calendaring component. Obviously, for many of us, even though we’d like to say that we’re going paperless, or we want to move into paper on demand, that’s not a reality in a lot of course yet. So we have to still deal with documents and there has to be a way to manage all those documents, or the content that comes into courts.

So those are all pieces of the very basic case management components that we look at. Then we added another layer in the model that is just called additional components and it’s all of the extras that might be very critical to some court operations, but may be new to others. I’m sure that this list of additional components is going to grow over time but that’s where we have the things like e-filing, or e-bench, or judicial tools, different kinds of public access portals. There’s the ODR, the online dispute resolution, digital recording is a big one. As we moved away from court recorders and court reporters in a lot of court houses around the country, there’s been a gradual move to rely on technology to maintain the official court record. So that’s a component in and of itself that can be plugged in. So there’s a variety of these things that fall into this secondary layer, if you will, of additional components.

Then for anyone that might be listening to this podcast, I may be talking more like a court administrator because that’s where I live every day, that’s what I do. But one of the things I’ve realized is that any court administrator, court manager, is very reliant on their IT support, the technologists that work in and for courts around the country are a critical part of our infrastructure. That group are the people that construct the third level of the component model, where we talk about system-wide capabilities. In that sense, we’re talking about the basic search engines that have to be available in any kind of system so that when you’re looking for certain information, you can find it. It’s not just flowing into some black box somewhere, but you have to be able to access that information and get it out.

In the court world too, we are governed in many respects by a variety of performance measures, whether those measures are dictated by our state supreme courts, or our state court administrative offices, or local rules, or administrative orders of one sort or another. The reality is, to be truly accountable to the public that provides the tax payer dollars to operate the courts and for the court users that want to know there are decisions are being made on individual cases, we have to have the ability to report and analyze data. That reporting and analytics component, if you will, is part of the technology or system-wide capability level in this model.

We also have to deal with … In this world of security problems and security breaches, we have to have identity management. Courts, as you know Brad, deal with a lot of confidential and a lot of sensitive information and we have to protect that at times. So the identity management levels of our technology systems make sure that people that are legally permitted to access certain information can get to it but if there’s other information that needs to remain private or confidential, we have to have a way of blocking access by people who don’t have a right to see certain types of information, so those are-

Brad: Right, fine lines, yeah. I mean, it’s a fine line between access to justice and then CJIS compliance and redaction capabilities for juveniles and sensitive data.

Hey, I just wanted to thank you. I mean, you’ve been so generous with your time, certainly appreciate all the things. For our listeners, we appreciate you downloading this podcast. Be sure to review the podcast show notes for the resource materials, which Kevin has graciously provided a lot of links to, which I think will be an excellent resource for you to find all the information that we discussed today. If you’d like to learn a little bit more about ImageSoft, please go ahead and visit our website at imagesoftinc.com. This concludes this podcast. Thank you and have a great day.

Steve: Thanks again for joining us on this podcast. To learn more about ImageSoft, please visit imagesoftinc.com. That’s ImageSoft I-N-C.com if you haven’t already done so, 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.
Steve G: Okay, sounds good. So Patrick, it’s an easy way to model your data in a rapid development environment to create an application, right? So not only the data, model the data, but it also provides a good, standard, consistent presentation layer, right, where you can build how it’s going to look?