Keep Calm: The Court Clerk Uses CaseShare to Handle It

186_keepcalmclerk“Keep calm” is probably the least comforting phrase to any court clerk trying to ascend a case to the higher, or Appellate, courts. And rightfully so – there are custom requirements to be met, volumes to be assembled, files to be named and pages to be ordered, signed, sealed and delivered. Even after that laborious process, the file will likely still bounce back for unmet requirements, missing or improperly ordered papers, etc. Studies reveal that the court case rejection rates rise as high as 46 percent!

More stress than even a Snickers can fix, we knew we better come up with a solution.

Now There’s an App for That

A purpose-built application, CaseShare is a stand-alone solution that satisfies all state requirements, automates the fancy footwork of appellate court cases, and digitally delivers it in a user-friendly PDF format to the appropriate higher court. But if you really want it to integrate with the lower court’s document management system (DMS), it will.

Remember that 46 percent? Since adopting CaseShare, one county’s Circuit Court reported that less than five percent of its appeal cases have been rejected.

A Ruling in Favor of All

Cat’s out of the bag: lower court clerks benefit from CaseShare in numerous ways. With a previously paper-based process gone automated, rules-based processing keeps them on track while the man hours required to assemble the case and transcripts drops from days to hours. Lower court clerks now have the capacity to handle their appellate case workload, and then some.

But don’t hang your heads just yet, Appellate clerks – you actually win twice! Not only are you spending less time reviewing and sending back the record, but you’ll receive all your files in a consistent manner that also allows you to easily route them into the appropriate hands.

CaseShare didn’t forget about you either, Appellate Justices. A text searchable PDF with bookmarks makes it easier in court proceedings to quickly get everyone on the same page.

Let’s Build a Case for It

There’s more to CaseShare than can fit into one blog – without losing the average reader’s attention, at least. So we built an entire webpage that spells out all the functionalities – including a populated table of contents, text-searchable documents, one-click rotating, re-ordering, deleting and/or adding pages, and more – in chunked, digestible sections. You’ll also be able to listen to a CaseShare-specific webinar which includes a demo by ImagesSoft President Scott Bade and a customer story.

Take Me to the CaseShare Webpage

We Want to Hear From You!

On average, how does your court handle higher court case ascension? Which re-occurring issues do clerks gripe about most?

Make your case in the “comments” section below or on our Courts LinkedIn Showcase page. We read and respond – promise!

 

Her Name is CORA, and She’s the Future of Courts

175_coraShe can answer FAQs about any courthouse. She helps you search court dockets. She can even direct court visitors to where they need be, and she can do it all in either English or Spanish.

Who is she?

CORA, the Court-Operated Robotic Assistant, is the first robotic solution designed for a court setting. Named after Ottawa County, Michigan’s first female Probate Court judge, Hon. Cora VandeWater, CORA passed a week of pilot testing as the country’s first robotic court greeter during mid-November 2018 at the Ottawa County Grand Haven Courthouse. Quickly winning over both court workers and guests with her helpful assistance, dance moves and selfie skills, CORA went on to attend the National Center for State Court’s (NCSC) 2018 eCourts Conference in Las Vegas. There, she continued to make it easy for guests to look up the conference schedule, read court publications, watch videos and, of course, dance.

A Greater Purpose Behind Her Screen

While CORA offers immediate assistance on several levels, the comfort and convenience she is currently providing through smaller-scale tasks is actually contributing to a greater purpose  – bridging people into the future of court technology.

Rooted in tradition, courts tend to lag behind other industries when adopting new processes, especially when it comes to technology. But with undeniable elephants like access to justice sitting in every American courtroom, it’s becoming increasingly necessary that something be done. To face this challenge head-on, even many traditional judges, court clerks, and court managers are leveraging concepts like online dispute resolution (ODR), electronic filings (eFiling), workflows, and other court technologies to bridge  poor and middle-class citizens to the legal assistance they need. And with CORA now on board, many are enjoying a positive, first experience with the future of court operations.

Back to the Future…

CORA may take us by the hand into the future of court technology, but the digital transformation only just begins with her. Online dispute resolutions, for example, will lend themselves to more than just e-commerce disputes and start making access to justice more affordable and efficient for a variety of public-sector cases. And as courts decide which functionalities to leverage, they may build their own solutions with snap-on, best-of-breed components – a concept known as the Component Model – instead of marrying one vendor for the entire solution. And, as always, evidence management regarding footage from body cameras and surveillance video will continue to evolve.

Tell Me More

Because the bi-annual eCourts conference serves to encourage the dialogue of future courts innovations, these topics were all at the top of discussion. In attendance and immersed in the conversations was ImageSoft President, Scott Bade, who gave us a briefing on all things eCourts during the most recent episode of the Paperless Productivity Podcast. But if you’d rather just skim the details, this blog has your back.

 

We Want to Hear From You!

 

Are you pushing for your court to go paperless, or pushing out the very thought of it?

Tell us in the “comments” section below or on our Court Solutions Showcase page on LinkedIn. We read and respond – promise!

Thoughts of a Circuit Court Clerk

166_homerWe’re excited to share this heart-felt guest blog courtesy of our friend and client Paul Ferguson, Clerk of the Circuit Court in Arlington, VA.

When the Arlington Circuit Court decided to move from paper to electronic files in 2011, our first step was finding a technology partner that listened to our goals, could help us achieve them, and be fun to work with along the way.  We were fortunate to find all of that in ImageSoft, whose team was able to transition us over to a paperless system with ease and continues to support us with software updates and excellent customer service.

Benefits Beyond the Price Tag

Project Paperless” has empowered Arlington to achieve all of its goals, and then some! Yes, the cost savings have been nice. We no longer need to worry about purchasing case folders, use much less paper, and have considerably cut our postage costs. However, the benefits of ImageSoft’s solution and support system have been much more than financial for us.

OnBase, the enterprise content management system (ECM) implemented by ImageSoft, allows staff to route filings and documents to the proper person and place in a matter of minutes. With validated permissions, judges, attorneys, staff, and the public can all access the same file at the same time.

After working with the solution for a while, it was only natural that we would have some feedback as to what we could build upon to better serve the needs of our office. Both our judges and staff have suggested various upgrades and changes over the years, which ImageSoft has always welcomed and delivered on in an effective, timely manner.

ImageSoft also introduced us to electronic filings, which is now our preferred way of processing files. Thanks to ImageSoft’s TrueFiling, about 20 percent of our cases are now eFiled. Just this one change has delivered great time savings for our staff, faster turnaround for the public, and convenience for attorneys.

If you would like to learn more specifics about our office’s paperless transformation, I encourage you to take a quick read through our case study.

What’s Next?

While our system is meeting all our needs at the moment, it’s reassuring to know we have ImageSoft as a partner to call on for whatever and whenever our goals change.

It’s hard to remember what life was like six years ago before we knew “project paperless” was even a possibility. Arlington’s Circuit Court staff, judges, and attorneys appreciate the hand-in-hand support and forward-moving opportunity that ImageSoft has given us, and we are all very excited for what’s to come!

Paul Ferguson
Clerk of the Circuit Court
Arlington, VA and City of Falls Church, VA

 

County Clerks and Public Records Requests: A Happier Ever-After

By: Katie Pusz, Copywriter, ImageSoft

Can we all take a moment to celebrate the county clerks who, at this very moment, are working to keep our local governments running? Just a month ago, Winter Haven, FL blocked out an entire week to applaud municipal clerks. From May 6-12, county clerks were showered with gratitude for the value that their work brings to the Winter Haven community every day. And rightfully so!

Like the thread that holds a king-sized quilt together, one of the most important roles of a county clerk is to ensure that elected officials stay in open and clear communication with the public they serve, typically by means of public records request. In this way, clerks serve as the gatekeepers of a county’s checks and balances.

As the efficiency and success of counties hinges on the quality and capacity of its clerks, it is critically important that they stay well-equipped with the most updated tools for processing information requests and maintaining open communication with the public.

To FOIA This, You Need to Forget That!

155_paperworkmountain.jpgTraditionally, a clerk’s office space is shadowed by mountains of paper files and records that they typically sift through for days just to process one records request. Even then, they may have to redact sensitive information, which includes making a copy of the original document, inking out sensitive information, and making another copy to send to the requester. If the documents need to be snail-mailed, that will take even longer to be received and will acquire postage expenses. Not to mention that FOIA requests are bound by time restraints, and clerks need to not only manage and prioritize the timestamps on their requests, but adhere to them.

In a world where information is being requested at record speeds, clerks could never acquire the capacity or space necessary to maintain offices that are both efficient and manually-operated. On the flipside, many counties don’t have the budget to keep hiring more people, buying or renting more space, replenishing paper and ink, or footing more postal fees.

In a nutshell, paper is out. So, what’s moving in?

ECM, You’re Up!

Enterprise content management systems (ECM) are taking counties and clerks by storm, swooping up every document and file and condensing it all into one, comprehensive digital world. Also called electronic document management systems (EDMS), these electronic document and file repositories leverage automation and digital functionality to turnaround FOIA requests and their many other callings in optimal time.

Why are ECMs trending as the preferred tool for managing FOIA requests? We can think of a few reasons:

  • Tracking in No Time: As we previously mentioned, clerks work within several time boundaries on any given day. Able to integrate with electronic workflows, ECM/EDMS will recognize electronic requests, track their progress, and electronically deliver the results.
  • Point-and-Click Redactions: With an ECM like OnBase, redacting sensitive information is as easy as point and click. Best yet, this feature also allows you to create a separate, redacted copy for the recipient while the original copy is maintained on file.
  • Audits, Access, and Answers: Have you and another clerk, official, or staff member ever simultaneously needed the same document? Fighting over paper is not only time consuming, but it diminishes the integrity of the document – it could be on anyone’s desk at any time, and very vulnerable to wandering eyes. With an ECM/EDMS, a file or document can be viewed by multiple parties at the same time. And since you’re accessing documents electronically, you are free to work remotely from anyplace with secure internet access. Complete audits of a document’s history also hold users accountable, so you can see who has viewed or edited a document, how, and when.
  • eNotifications = No worries: Electronic notifications keep clerks on track with looming deadlines and what they should be prioritizing. Especially valuable to time-sensitive FOIA requests, the notifications reduce stress for the clerk by ensuring that everyone has what they need exactly when they need it.

As The Paperless Process People, we’re all about efficiency. If you’re ready to un-shadow your office in time for summer and learn more about the easy adoption of an ECM/EDMS, feel free to ping us.

What part of handling record requests is the most problematic for you? What’s the one thing you with your current document management system could do to help?

 

The Year in Review: Revolutionizing How Courts Adopt New Technologies

By Dave Hawkins, Chief Executive Officer, ImageSoft

goodbye-2017-welcome-2018-1024x5761_0ImageSoft enjoyed a banner year in 2017, growing our team by more than 20% and breaking all kinds of company records for new bookings, solutions implemented and delivery efficiency. Yet what excites us most is the way we’ve revolutionized how courts adopt new technologies. We’ve broken down long-standing barriers that have kept courts chained to monolithic systems, stifled in their efforts to modernize. Let me share a few highlights illustrating how ImageSoft is pioneering the Component Model in thought, word, and deed.

The Component Model in Thought

Court technology experts at organizations such as the National Center for State Courts, the National Association of Court Managers and the Conference of State Court Administrators all agree that the future of justice technology centers on the Component Model. Courts have traditionally been tied to a single technology vendor, resigning themselves to only those applications provided by that one vendor, or forced to absorb the high risk and financial outlay of attempting custom integrations with a new vendor’s products. ImageSoft, a 20-year veteran systems integrator, is changing all that. In September, we delivered a standing-room-only presentation on the Component Model at the Court Technology Conference in Salt Lake City, demonstrating how a best-of-breed approach allows courts to purchase solutions from a variety of vendors and make them work together seamlessly.

The key to this method rests in standardization of interfaces between components. Here again, ImageSoft has taken a leadership role by serving on the OASIS Legal XML Electronic Court Filing (ECF) Technical Committee, defining the ECF standards which have become a requirement for most new eFiling system procurements nationwide.

We also transformed our June customer event from our former justice-focused theme to a broader-based showcase of a variety of technologies. The shift was designed to let our court customers see how corporate and other governmental entities use OnBase by Hyland to facilitate automated workflow and document management. Many valuable lessons were learned by bringing our diverse clientele together under one roof to explore the possibilities. We invite you to join us for our next customer event, Velocity, February 27-28, 2018, in Novi, Michigan.

The Component Model in Word

Courts pursuing modernization face many challenges surrounding defining the scope and requirements for their initiatives. A language barrier creates confusion between court personnel and solution providers. Some vendors lack sufficient understanding of court processes, and many court staff cannot comprehend the technical jargon used by vendors. The result is that solutions delivered often fail to satisfy the original intent of the project sponsors.

Early in 2017, ImageSoft instituted a new approach to delivering justice solutions, blending the best aspects of waterfall and agile project management methodologies. On the front end, we employ a collaborative process of gathering requirements, aided by our decades of experience working with courts. Then, rather than writing hundreds of pages of technical specifications, we deliver a solutions requirements document (SRD) composed as user stories, written in the common language of court personnel. Each court staff member–judge, clerk, judicial assistant, prosecutor, administrator–can review their section of the SRD to ensure that their needs are appropriately captured and addressed.

On the back end, we build and deliver the solution iteratively, giving our clients the opportunity to see the system every two to four weeks, to ensure that we’ve stayed true to their goals. This process not only keeps the project on track, but also provides early training sessions to enable court staff to gain more familiarity with the new system well before go-live. They can also see how well the new solution will integrate with their existing CMS—a sneak preview of the Component Model in action.

The Component Model in Deed

We do not, however, merely think and talk about the Component Model. We deliver it. In May, the Michigan State Court Administrative Office contracted with us to bring a statewide eFiling solution to over 240 courts, selecting us in part due to our ability to integrate with various case management systems. Dozens of such CMS products are in use across the Great Lakes State’s 83 counties, and we have taken on the task of interfacing with them while implementing eFiling. We have already succeeded with four pilot courts, which utilize a mix of big-name vendor CMS products and locally-developed systems.

We also brought the Component Model to life at Cleveland Municipal Court, one of the nation’s largest, where we coupled the superior document management capabilities of OnBase with the court’s existing commercial off-the-shelf CMS. A paperless court since November, Cleveland Municipal’s documents are now stored and routed electronically to improve security, efficiency and accessibility.

Looking Ahead

As the justice technology community continues to extol the benefits of the Component Model in thought and word, ImageSoft will continue to deliver it in deed. Already for 2018, we have numerous projects in the works for state agencies and large municipalities seeking to modernize their court systems using a best-of-breed strategy. We look forward to leading the charge, helping courts nationwide ease their way into 21st century innovation, one component at a time.

Why eFiling Alone Isn’t Enough

By Steve Glisky, Government Practice Manager, ImageSoft

Courts making the transition from paper document filing to eFiling have taken an important first step in streamlining operations and saving resources. EFiling is a good place to start since it helps satisfy constituent demand for greater online access. EFiling alone, however, typically falls short of achieving one of the most pressing goals of the court: eliminating the burden of maintaining a paper court file. 69_mrs wormer

If a court makes eFiling mandatory, it’s only natural to think that the Clerk will soon stop maintaining paper. Many courts soon realize that their so-called document management system simply lacks the functionality required to meet the processing needs of the court.  Most of these solutions offer a simple document storage and retrieval system with file share links to their CMS. Once they’re confronted with process steps that require rules-based routing, most courts typically end up just printing, processing, and maintaining a dual paper case file.

The benefits of eFiling are multiplied when paired with a robust document management and workflow solution. Progressive courts use advanced document management and workflow with eFiling to achieve a true digital case flow management environment.


To learn more about avoiding the printing of eFiled documents for court processes, click here.

Here are a few key features to consider when evaluating a document management solution for your court.

Electronic Case File

Presentation and preservation of the electronic case file is the cornerstone of the electronic court. An intuitive electronic case file dramatically increases buy-in from key stakeholders and creates a better-than-paper experience with features such as:

  • Intuitive filing structure: Case files are organized and managed using color-coded tabs with advanced filtering and sorting to make finding the right documents easier.
  • Revision control: The system keeps and maintains prior revisions, preserving the integrity of the case file as documents get marked-up and changed.
  • Document history: All activity associated with a document should be logged and be easily accessible, including workflow transaction history, who viewed/ printed/annotated/updated/signed, etc.
  • Redaction: Confidential information must be redacted before the public can view documents. Courts need a method for redaction without having to print off digital files or photocopy paper ones, redact, and then scan in for public access. Those courts with high case volumes should consider an automated method to reduce the burden on staff.
  • Document retention: The system automatically purges documents from the electronic case file according to the Clerk’s document retention and disposal schedule.
  • Security: All roles within the justice system have secured access to the electronic case file in the way that works best for them, only allowing access to the documents that they have rights to view, i.e., public, sealed, confidential, and expunged records.
  • Full text search: Searching document content across the entire case file provides high value for both the judge and staff. The ability to search across multiple cases is also a major benefit.
  • Mobile device support: Since the physical case file no longer exists, the Court must consider how the parties will access the electronic case file using tablets, smart phones, or some other device (e.g., kiosks).

 

Workflow

Workflow is the single most significant component to a digital case flow management environment because of the process efficiencies it creates. All courts have defined steps that govern how documents are processed. Workflow allows for automated routing and processing of electronic documents and data. Consider these key workflow features:

  • A rules engine with a simple interface to manage step-by-step routing rules: Authorized court personnel should be able to maintain these rules and reduce IT dependency.
  • Electronic forms with a forms designer and management tool to convert paper forms into electronic forms: The case jacket and decision sheet are commonly used electronic forms.
  • Electronic signatures and markup capability that allow a user to markup and edit a document before signing: Consider a solution with judicial stamps with support for both top and bottom line text and proxy signing for authorized users.
  • Electronic notification of parties: This reduces significant postage and improves processing speed.
  • Electronic certification: It improves service and integrity without having to print and physically seal documents. The delivery should include an authentication site for verifying document authenticity, an audit trail of recipient access, and a method to expire documents.
  • Packet preparation organizes a case file with a coversheet according to specific requirements set forth by the higher court. Courts typically use this for bind-overs and appeals.
  • Standard interface for connecting and exchanging information with CMS.
  • Electronic arraignment that streamlines packet creation, arraignment and the document signature process: It should support both video and face-to-face arraignments.
  • A judicial dashboard: It provides an intuitive tool for both the judge and staff to process the electronic docket.

Summary

Courts are adopting eFiling at a much greater rate to improve customer service and online access. Prior to making eFiling mandatory, courts should carefully consider the capabilities of their document management and workflow platform to see if it’s going to meet their requirements for creating a true digital case flow management environment. Equally important is to determine how best to map their manual based processes to the new electronic paradigm. Finally, the new solution should accommodate the unique needs of your judicial officers.

Those that have successfully made this transition understand that it’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revolutionize the efficiency and transparency of the court.

Is your court ready to move beyond eFiling?