Easing the Bench’s Transition to Technology

By: Brad Smith, Sr. Justice Consultant, ImageSoft

118_e-courtsReady for an electronic solution? Designing technology that is easy to use and understand begins with these steps:

  • Involve stakeholders who are candidates to use the technology solution; seek their input in design and functionality
  • Understand their exact requirements
  • Engineer the technology with features that eliminate stress and streamline day-to-day routine tasks

The ideal paperless courtroom solution for judges should be designed by and for judges to streamline their daily tasks. It should incorporate all of the actions judges need while they are on the bench, in chambers or working outside of the office.

Judges have identified their requirements for an electronic courtroom solution. It must be:

  • Just as fast (or faster) as paper and manual processes
  • Configurable for each individual judge and each judge’s work style
  • Easy to use, intuitive, easy to understand in under 15 minutes

Just as we all have downloaded different apps on our cell phones, judges need to be able to tailor a paperless courtroom platform to their preferred user experience. It must fit the various ways judges think and work in the court, with intuitive sections, such as your calendar, your daily docket, your daily caseload.

To fit each judge’s personal preference and work style, the solution can be as elaborate or as simple as needed. A solution that allows judges to easily configure colors, apps, screen display, and tabs, etc., gives flexibility for individual customization. A useful feature is one that gives judges the option to add color-coded tabs by all motions, orders or notices filed for a particular case. Being able to change the sequence and look of the display, for example, by individualizing it by hearing type is an important function. A manual task that is especially useful for judges is automated note taking, book marking and commenting on files, all without the expense and error-prone process of marking up manual paper files.

With such a tool, you can imagine that the administrative load to print case documents and organize them specifically for each judge can be reduced dramatically.

As many courtrooms have adopted case management systems over time, any judge-centered electronic platform must integrate seamlessly with the existing CMS, regardless of vendor and brand, and especially if it is a homegrown solution.

Above all else, the electronic solution must make the judge’s work easier, less stressful, simpler and faster with greater efficiency and reduced costs.

aiSmartBench

Designed by and for judges, aiSmartBench does all of this and more. It provides access to all docket images, court rulings and events, and key case data while allowing views into the jail system, financial case data and driver’s license databases and more.

aiSmartBench offers an efficient and easy-to-use way for judges to access their docket and streamlines the case information to only what is needed on the bench. Judges can edit and eSign orders which saves time sending them back to an assistant to change, print and re-present to the judge to sign which can slow down proceedings.

Once signed, the electronic document can be sent back to the court’s document management system. This paperless pathway from the court system to the case system reduces docketing time and eliminates the staff cost of handling, storing, and securing paper orders.

Judges can search within case files and documents and across case files. Access to Lexis/Nexis and Westlaw is an easy functionality included in the solution.

aiSmartBench is the only judicial solution that integrates with any case or document management system.

Read more about the functionality of aiSmartBench.

If you’ve used the Internet or an ATM with a touchscreen, you will be completely at home using aiSmartBench.

What are your requirements for an electronic solution for the courtroom?

 

eFiling is Coming Soon to your State – The Advantages of Mandatory vs. Permissive eFiling

By Brad Smith, Senior Justice Consultant, ImageSoft

When I started working on my first state and local court electronic filing project in 1998, I truly felt that it would be adopted much like computer assisted legal research offered by LexisNexis and Westlaw.

Here we are, nearly 20 years later, and state and local courts are finally dipping their toes into the eFiling water. iStock_000011704687_Medium

Unlike the Federal Courts CM/ECF (Case Management / Electronic Files) system which started mandating electronic filing in the early 2000s, state courts have struggled with adopting electronic filing, let alone making the decision to mandate eFiling for civil and criminal cases.

Texas launched an eFiling portal in 2003, which allowed for permissive eFiling on a county-by-county basis. What the state realized after 10-plus years of “go-lives” and an 18 percent adoption rate, is that permissive eFiling is a nightmare for the attorneys, Clerk of Courts offices and the judges.


Click here for more information on JusticeTech TrueFiling™

For the attorneys and their staff, it becomes very difficult to keep track of which cases or jurisdictions allow for eFiling and which do not. For firms operating statewide in Texas, for example, that would mean your legal assistants / paralegals would need to monitor cases in all 254 counties.

For Clerk of Courts, permissive eFiling presented challenges as well. The office processes an incredible number of cases each year and workflow is critical to keeping the court records accurate and available to the public, attorneys and judges in their jurisdiction. In the permissive environment, the clerk’s staff now needs to operate both a paper workflow queue and an electronic workflow queue to maintain the court records, which adds time and complexity to their jobs.

Even judges, who traditionally use paper court files even when their clerk’s office has taken the time and effort to scan over the counter filings, do not have timely access to electronic court records in a permissive eFiling environment. The steps that are required to convert paper pleadings into electronic images (intake, scan and file) can take up to 24 hours, while eFiled pleadings processed by the clerks’ staff are immediately accessible to the judges via their document management system or judicial dashboard.

The Advantages of Mandated eFiling

Just in the last four years, Florida (Civil and Criminal) and Texas (Civil) have mandated eFiling, while Indiana and Illinois have released mandatory eFiling schedules for 2017 and 2018. While it’s not surprising news by itself, the fact that these mandates are taking place in states that do not have a statewide case management system is encouraging.

It is my hope that the next wave of states in the early eFiling planning stages use the lessons learned by their Supreme Court / Administrative Office of the Courts colleagues and bypass permissivie eFiling to move straight to mandatory eFiling, which will benefit all stakeholders involved.

Which approach has your court considered?