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“We’re tearing down your storage facility. Please find another place to keep your files.” 
 
This was, essentially, the message that Washington’s Yakima County District Court received when it had over one-hundred thousand files warehoused at a soon-to-be-diminished storage facility. Receiving an excess of 2 million filings a year, Yakima County’s District Court Administrator Therese Murphy and Office Supervisor Tamara Williams knew they needed a long-term, safeguarded process for filings and storage, and they needed it yesterday.  
 
Join Therese and Tamara as they journey us through their process of implementing, learning and, ultimately, succeeding with the electronic filing system TrueFiling. Not only did it transform their court operations, but it kept everyone up-and-running from home during the unforeseen Coronavirus pandemic. 
 
A measure of their 2018 analytics revealed a return of: 
  1. A 70 percent time saving in processing new civil suits (65,850 minutes down to 19,755 minutes) 
  2. Overall cost savings of $15,000 
  3. 40 extra hours of filing returned to volunteers 
  4. Positive, feedback from the public, staff and especially the Judges!  

Check out this episode!

Read the Transcript

So, just to give you some context, just so you have an understanding of what we’re talking about here. In the world of criminal, the criminal case can last for three to five years, we were managing that case. It could be much shorter, it could be much longer, but traditionally a case will expire within five years and we’ll be done. On an annual basis we anticipate that we manage about 500,000 pieces of paper in a criminal case through our workflow process in OnBase. That represents about 17% of our overall work.

In the world of civil infractions, which are your traffic infractions, speeding, those kinds of things. We actually get about only about 162,000 pieces of paper is our estimation, that we have to manage an OnBase. But that work represents about 57% of our total caseload. And then you get to civil… and I should say regarding infractions, those go quick. So, you get a speeding ticket, you have so many days to resolve that ticket, you get it resolved. And we only have to retain those documents for three years. So, those are done and out of our OnBase system within three years, it’s just over. Criminal stays a little bit longer and civil stays even longer. Civil can last up to 10 years. They can be processing that case through our court system, and then we have an additional three years beyond that to retain it, pursuant to retention schedules.

What is unique about civil is it only represents about 25% of our workload, but it represents the vast majority of paper in our court. So, we anticipate about three quarters of a million pieces of paper come through our court on an annual basis, in the world of civil. And we use OnBase to help us manage it. Now, when we’re talking about workflow in each one of these different components, my answer began with the fact that we get to, within the world of OnBase, we get to actually uniquely configure that workflow to meet the need. So let’s talk about that. In the world of criminal, those cases initiate in what I referred to as an external process with an external program that has absolutely nothing to do with OnBase, TrueFiling, nothing. It’s already an electronic process that is managed by the state AOC.

So, an officer will cite someone for an offense through their sector program, and that’s done electronically, it’s transmitted to the court, electronically. And because of OnBase’s configurability, we were able to ingest that electronic filing from a separate system outside of OnBase. OnBase makes that happen through a workflow process, and just going on to our network and grabbing those documents, and then pulling them into the workflow process. And every single one of those documents has its own workflow. Depending on the doc type, it will go to a variety of different queues and everyone’s goes a little bit different, based upon that document and what work needs to be done on that document.

So, that’s kind of cool with OnBase. We don’t have to worry about so much the fact that we have this external program that really has nothing to do with OnBase or TrueFiling. OnBase is actually able to connect to it and pull that information for us. So, that way we can bring it into our system and work it, as we would want to. Then you talk about civil, or civil infractions, rather. That’s the same kind of process, those come in through sectors, as well. And so we’re able to pull those into OnBase much like we are criminal. Civil, that process actually is where we launched TrueFiling, and that was a game changer for us. We started using TrueFiling right out of the gate, and while we didn’t mandate it, we found very quickly, and I know Tamara will probably address this in some of her responses as well, we were able to leverage TrueFiling and the filers really appreciated it and liked it. That is the way that we get our new civil filings and any subsequent filings things, frankly, through the True Filing system into OnBase.

And so within OnBase, obviously, we have a number of different queues, that’s how it works, you have a number of different queues in OnBase, and within those queues are several different work processes, depending upon the doc type and the case type that we’ve assigned to those documents that are coming into the system. And we are very, very fortunate to be able to have the ability to create those workflow processes based upon our needs, so that it’s highly configurable within OnBase to be able to do that. And so that’s essentially how we use workflow and how we use the e-filing solution, TrueFiling, within our system.

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.
Steve Dale: Thanks for joining us today. My name is Steve Dale, and I’ll be your host as we talk with Yakima County about the value that they have received leveraging e-filing and workflow. A handful of years ago, the National Center for State Courts recognize that there isn’t really a single CMS in the marketplace that satisfies every need of the court. And they developed the component model, which allows for a standards driven approach to courts to pick and choose the best of breed pieces of functionality that extend the capability of that CMS. With me today is Therese Murphy from Yakima County. She is the district court administrator, and she’s here to share a bit of their success story about leveraging the component model. Welcome, Therese. Therese, could you give us a little bit of background about yourself and the challenges you were experiencing prior to implementing e-filing and workflow?
Therese Murphy: Sure, Steve, I can provide you with some background. As Steve mentioned, I’m the court administrator for Yakima County District Court in Washington state. It’s a court of limited jurisdiction, and what that means is we are essentially the workhorses of the court system in this state. There are by far many more courts of limited jurisdiction than there are superior courts. And just to give you a bit of an understanding of what that means, on average courts of limited jurisdiction on an annual basis, receive an excess of 2 million filings a year. Now that compared to the superior court, which is the upper level trial court in our state, they on average receive anywhere from 250 to 300000 filings a year. So, you can see that, just in those numbers, we are a much larger court presence in our state, and we actually do a lot more work than the other courts that exist in our state.

And so I, along with a number of folks in my operation, one of them being Tamara Williams, who is also on this podcast, a supervisor for me, were challenged by trying to manage the paper within our court. Three years ago, we were told by the, what we launched on base three years ago, TrueFiling three years ago, but we were advised by our, our County Board of Commissioners that we would have to do something with the storage facility where we keep all of our files, because they were going to rip it down. And that, in fact, did happened and we had over a hundred thousand files in there. So, we needed to figure out how to manage that. And our solution to that problem really was OnBase and TrueFiling and working with a vendor, ImageSoft, to get us off the ground. And so about three years ago, we actually launched TrueFiling and OnBase at the same time and have been working with it ever since.

Steve: That’s great, Therese. I know that Yakima uses a workflow for civil criminal and civil infractions. Can you just provide an overview of how the court is leveraging workflow today?
Therese: Sure. The beauty of OnBase and the workflow component within OnBase is the ability to uniquely configure it to our needs. So, Steve mentioned three separate and distinct case types that we have within our court. Now, when we’re thinking about that, criminal is separate and distinct and it actually has its own workflow process. Infractions are separate and distinct, they also have their own workflow process, and civil is definitely separate and distinct and has its own workflow process. And with each one of those case types comes different volumes, or amounts, of work attached to them.
Steve: Yeah, it sounds great. You really expanded upon a number of the different improvements leveraging the OnBase workflow and even some of the integration. And you talked a bit about TrueFiling, Tamara, what’s your opinion on how TrueFiling has changed the court?
Tamara Williams:: TrueFiling has been a godsend for our court, honestly. We no longer have to keep physical files. That is probably the biggest change for our court. We used to have, as Therese mentioned, a room plus an old storage facility that held thousands, upon thousands, upon thousands of files with millions of pieces of papers in them. And just to have those gone, it’s just amazing. You now have all of those documents that would have been in those files, readily available at your fingertips.

If someone calls in for a question on a specific document, you don’t have to go rummaging through thousands of files looking for that piece of paper. You can simply type in the case number, even if it hasn’t been processed in our judicial information system, it’s in OnBase. We can see it and we can provide that person with the information, right then and there on the spot. We used to employ multiple volunteers, sometimes 40 hours a week, to come in just to file and sort paperwork for us to get it into the file, so that we could have everything together. And we don’t have to do any of that anymore. I mean, it’s just been amazing to not have to have all those physical files and be able to have the documents right there at your fingertips when you need it.

Therese: So, just to follow up on Tamara’s response, and she’s absolutely correct when she talks about the overall time savings, within the civil department specifically. I will tell you that, yes, we’ve been able to actually reduce costs as a result of implementing both OnBase and TrueFiling in our court. And the one area, and this is just one of hundreds of areas where we’ve actually been able to improve our processes, is particularly telling. So, when someone actually initiates a paper filing within our court in the old system, there were six separate processes that the staff had to go through. Those six processes, before it was filed, before it was all done, those six processes, pre OnBase, post OnBase were reduced to two processes.

No longer did we have to date stamp all the documents that were coming in, that was all automated. We didn’t have to separate them and send conformed copies back to the filer, that was all automated through TrueFiling. If something needed to be signed by a judge, that didn’t need to be put in a stack of paper that they would come and grab and pull back into their office and sit at their desk and sign it. Instead, now it routes through workflow into a queue that the judge actually sits there and provides an electronic signature, through TrueSign. Once it’s back in the queue, the clerk does have to docket it in our state wide case management system, but then it’s just sent to the file. There’s no more looking for the file. There’s no more filing it and having those volunteers or any other paid staff to do that work.

When I did a calculation on this, just to get a sense of what the time savings was, I will tell you that the year that I prepared this, which I believe was 2018, there were 6,500 new civil suits, roughly, filed. In the old system it would have taken 65,850 minutes to process those new civil suits. In the new system it takes us 19,755 minutes. It’s an overall 70% time savings, and an overall cost savings about $15,000. And so that’s just the new civil suits, that doesn’t include all of the [inaudible 00:14:07] orders and whatnot. Again, even in that scenario, it’s a 70% reduction in workload as a result of the employment of TrueFiling and OnBase in our court. So we have had some definite, real and meaningful changes in our business process that have translated into an overall cost savings. And I know an overall satisfaction of court users and court employees, as a result of having this new system in our court.

Steve: Thanks, Tamara and Therese, for the answers on that. That really sounds great. I’m curious now how satisfied people are that are using your court services now that you’ve implemented e-filing workflow?
Tamara: Honestly, they were very resistant at first. We had to, as Therese said, kind of coerce them into the e-filing. After about a month of getting into the routine, e-filing everything, we have had multiple parties call and tell us how wonderful e-filing it is. One of the biggest things about the e-filing that the filers love is that they get their conformed copies back the minute that the button in the workflow is pressed. If it’s a judgment that had to go to a judge, the judge signs that judgment, as soon as he hits the button that says judge complete and kicks off a workflow, that not only brings it into one of our other queues within OnBase for the clerk to see, but it automatically goes back to the filer’s TrueFiling history. And they have that document sometimes within the same day that they filed it. That is probably the biggest thing that we have heard from our filers that they just love about TrueFiling.

I mean, not only does everything get to come over electronically, it saves them time on their end also. But that’s probably the biggest thing is that they get their conformed copies back. I mean, in the paper world, it could sometimes take four to six weeks for a paper judgment to come in to the court, get it all processed, as Therese said in her answer to the last question, get it to the judge, get it signed, get it back to the clerk and then have time to get that document conformed and back in the mail and back to the filers. So, four to six weeks versus two to three days. Our filers really, really like TrueFiling to the extent that we get questions almost on the daily about when we get to put our old civil files into OnBase that aren’t in there yet, because we started fresh when we went to the TrueFiling OnBase systems. We started just in the summer of that year, and so we’ve still got many, many, many, many, many cases that they have to paper file on and they don’t like that anymore.

Steve: So, filers are thrilled. That’s great. It’s a great step. How about employee satisfaction with the new implementation?
Tamara: I have to say it’s about the same. Resistance at first, but now they prefer it. I actually have an employee that comes to me about once a month and asks if we are ever going to mandate e-filing because we do have some filers who still file in paper. But yes, our employees really like it. They would actually prefer that we mandate it and we make everyone e-file because it’s just a much easier process all around. I reached out to a couple of my employees just to get some feedback, and one thing I had not thought about is with this whole COVID pandemic going on, we’ve had to have some employees work from home. And because we have TrueFile and OnBase, she was able to work from home and still be able to do the work she would do if she were in the office, because she has everything at her fingertips. As soon as it comes through TrueFile, she’s able to get what she needs and get the job done and does not need to be here in the office to get that job completed.

Steve: So, we talked about a few of the players already. We talked about the staff and employees, we talked about the filers. And certainly, last but not least, how about the judge? How has OnBase been as a judicial tool for the judge?
Therese: So, I think the judges, much like with everyone else in the court, change is not comfortable. And so at the beginning it was a little bit of a challenge, but once the unknown became known it certainly has been a tremendous benefit to the judges, and certainly something they don’t want to lose. In fact, I know that they’ve oftentimes said to me when they’re in court and someone hands them a paper file, they’re very disappointed because they would rather not have to flip through a paper file.

One of the things that’s been great about OnBase, and I think great on both ends, pre OnBase and pre TrueFiling, pre everything. When we’re doing it the old way, a lot of the work fell on the clerk because there was a lot of preparation, a pre preparation before they went into the courtroom, forms and whatnot. Many of them, those things were never used. And so they were just tossed if they were never used, we were just anticipating what was going to happen in the court. Well, when we switched it over and went into OnBase, a lot of the tasks and responsibilities that the clerk had switched to the judge. And so in our solution, the judges are the ones that prepare the automated forms that are accessible via OnBase. So, if it’s a judgment and sentence, it’s the judge that’s completing those documents.

And so we’re only completing the documents we absolutely have to have completed. And so we’re not wasting a lot of paper and a lot of time, and the judges have a lot more control over the work that they’re generating, which is something that I know that they appreciate very much. And since Tamara mentioned COVID, I think that that’s also been an interesting experience that relates to OnBase. The court now has switched to doing a lot of virtual hearings, so a lot of our cases are being held in a virtual environment, primarily on the Zoom platform. And one of the things that’s really great is that as the judge is generating a JNS, for example, they’re able to actually share their screen, their OnBase screen, with the document that they created and filled out, with the participants of the court hearing, so they can actually see it. In the normal world, pre COVID, even with OnBase, we were not able to do that, at that moment in time. And so that’s been kind of an added benefit having OnBase on the virtual platform for court hearings.

And then I would say, I think just in general, the judges really appreciate the organization and the accessibility of OnBase, much like the staff person that Tamara referenced in the previous answer. A lot of the judges are rotating in and out, and they all now have computers at their home. And so they’re able to work from home and access their OnBase queues and do their work from a remote location, not having to be here at the court. And so that’s been a huge benefit for them, and I think something that they very much appreciate. I think, initially it was a struggle. Now, I don’t think they’d want it done any differently. And in fact, they’re always looking for new and better ways of doing things. Can we automate more things? And so now they’ve become definitely a partner and a voice for that change that we’ll continue to do in the court, moving forward.

Steve: That’s fantastic. And you mentioned the judges wanting some new things. What are the two of you looking forward to most in future enhancements?
Therese: Well, I can name one thing, and Tamara may have some stuff too. We have a wishlist, and one thing that we really want to leverage is ShareBase. I think that is a system that could benefit us in the long run significantly. It probably comes to no surprise to anybody, a lot of the work that we do has to actually be shared with other people outside of our organization and outside of our system. Just as an example, when someone is convicted of an offense and they’re required to report to the jail, we send that judgment and sentence to the jail. And so they are not in our organization, they’re not in OnBase, they’re not in any of that.

Now we have the ability to send it through another platform, but we think that ShareBase would be a better platform and we can automate the sending of that. Right now it’s somewhat dictated on the staff to make sure that the right button is pushed and the right selection is made to get the document where it needs to go. And we think that with ShareBase we will be able to automate the sending of those documents and in fact the receiving a lot of those documents. So, then we can avoid the uploading and downloading process because we really don’t want to do that anymore. We want to be able to bring it in seamlessly into our system. So, that’s something that we’re definitely looking at implementing in the near future.

Tamara: Yes, absolutely. And on the civil end, as you’ve heard how many documents we get, of course, the number one on my wishlist is being able to bring all of our old civil files into OnBase and start using e-filing on those old civil cases.
Steve: Well, Therese and Tamara, I really appreciate you being on with me today. I think it’s been a fantastic discussion. I’m impressed with all the work that you guys have done. And for our listeners, we appreciate you downloading this podcast. If you’d like to learn a little bit more about ImageSoft, please visit imagesoftinc.com. This concludes the podcast for today and hope you 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.