Dear Component Model: We’re Thankful!

As colder weather and feel-good movies draw us home, it’s easy to look around and reflect on “the why” of who we are and what we do – making memories with loved ones, embracing the stillness of nature, and finding ways to contribute to and be a part of both.

Enjoy Thanksgiving typography

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, almost everyone is making a conscious effort to unplug from technology, forget about work, and be present in these moments. But, at the risk of sounding millennial, many of us wouldn’t be where we are without the rapidly-advancing technology supporting our daily lives. In more ways than one, it’s a component of who we are, what we do, and how far we’re able to go, and we would all be amiss to not show thanks.

A Case for the Courts

We know – you would expect software developers to draw such conclusions, but hear us out. 2018 has been the year of a system that, through the orchestration of loosely-coupled, modular applications, has digitally transformed courts across the nation to be more accessible, transparent, efficient, and empowered court computing environments to identify gaps in their technology infrastructure, zero in on opportunities for growth and be more strategic with their investments.

What does this mean? That justice is more accessible to everyone. That court managers, CIOs, judicial officers, and many other busy court personnel are getting more done in less time, and are able to recycle these saved resources into addressing triple-bottom-line issues. And that, with snap-on, integrative components now available, we can start having real conversations about long-term court visions and the technology needed to support it.

All of this, thanks to The Component Model.

Functionality Not Far-Fetched

As any court personnel can tell you, the idea of various parts working together to bring versatile functionality to a court’s case management system (CMS) is not original. In fact, many legacy systems are supported by functional components. The issue lies within the limits of those components. You see, the traditional monolithic structure is very tightly wound, and all the components, though serving a niche purpose, depend on one another. So if a court manager decides to alter, add to or take away one component, changes to the model’s code will have to be made, Vendors may not want to pursue new coding if it won’t be beneficial to their customers in other jurisdictions, will be too costly or other roadmap priorities are taking precedent. Not to mention that the court faces the headache of replacing or changing the entire system.

Fast-forward to loosely-fixed, NextGen application components, and enjoy defined interfaces that make it easy to snap-on and snap-off parts as you see fit. This type of flexibility allows each court system to decide on and invest in the specific functionality that best serves their needs. Despite these boundaries, however, the components use open data standards and can still communicate with one another to maintain seamless automation and workflow.


Because, just like maintaining peace with your relatives at Thanksgiving dinner, communication is key.


The Component Shop

Whether adding new functionality or enhancing existing operations, these highly-configurable (not custom, AKA vendor-coded), scalable application components work together to support the court’s business goals, technology platform, data management and reduce currently-unnecessary application complexity. Below are just a few of the many in-demand functionalities that you can mix-and-match for a best-in-class court solution:

  • eFiling
  • eBench
  • Online Dispute Resolution
  • Litigant Portal
  • Evidence management
  • Electronic payment processing
  • Compliance monitoring

 

Now, We Want to Hear From You!

As much as we like to talk, we’re also great listeners. And that’s something to be thankful for!

What does your ideal component model look like? Which functionality would you choose to work with your CMS?

Join our industry-specific conversations by following the LinkedIn page below that best fits your industry’s needs:

ImageSoft Court Solutions | ImageSoft Government Solutions

 

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

 

State Statutes Got You Stressed? Go Paperless

By: Steve Glisky, Practice Manager, ImageSoft

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The criminal justice system holds prosecutors and law enforcement officers to unique statutory responsibilities which, when not honored, can lead to misconduct and disciplinary action. The effort required to ensure these protocols are respected at times take a backseat to the daily grind of pushing stacks of paper files through the justice system.

Jurisdictions that move from paper to electronic-based prosecution increase the speed and consistency of prosecuting cases.  A solution that expands throughput while systemizing compliance rules helps improve justice and community confidence.  As a blueprint feature of the Paperless Prosecutor Solution (PPS), statute compliancy has been built into the daily operations of prosecutors’ offices across the country.

You Ask, We Answer

As we walk through each of these compliancy features, think about your own processes and how you honor each of these responsibilities. Are you taking unnecessary time-consuming steps? Is your protocol safeguarding your cases as much as it should?

CJIS Security Policy

Passing a CJIS Security Audit goes beyond just getting your staff and partners finger printed and trained.  A key tenant to CJIS security requirements is that any data exchanged between law enforcement and prosecution must be encrypted end-to-end and while at rest.  Simply receiving sensitive information from law enforcement via a standard email is a sure way to fail an audit and incur penalties. The Paperless Prosecutor Solution is the Rx for CJIS audit anxiety because it uses an innovative and secure Law Enforcement Agency Portal (LEAP) for streamlining communication with the prosecutor’s office.  Paperless prosecution is a great way to audit proof your office while enjoying a peace of mind that critical information is safe and secure.

Discovery

It’s a violation of due process if the prosecution fails to disclose evidence throughout the life of a case.  In the paper world, it’s often difficult to track and prove when discoverable materials are sent.  Any missteps could result in a mistrial or a decision being overturned.

Paperless prosecution protects the office against these types of challenges by automating the discovery process, enabling the systematic redaction of documents at the time of intake, and providing a complete audit trail of when and to whom discoverable materials are sent. Updated discovery statuses and materials are always available anytime in the courtroom or office.

Victim Rights

The prosecutor must notify victims about many things, including their rights to participate in the case, receive plea agreement recommendations, and attend the sentencing hearing to express how the crime has affected their lives. As all prosecutors know, failure to honor these responsibilities undermines justice by not giving the victim a voice in the outcome of the case.

PPS ensures that justice is served by automatically alerting the Victim Rights Coordinator to send out notifications to the victim based upon pre-defined rules of the office.  This keeps the victim engaged throughout the case and helps uphold the public’s trust in their prosecutor and the entire justice system.

Subpoenas

Prosecutors must properly subpoena witnesses prior to court hearings.  If the witness fails to appear, it’s incumbent on the prosecutor to know the serve status of the subpoena.  If the witness was properly served but failed to appear, a bench warrant could be issued depending on the circumstance.  In a paper-based environment, it’s very difficult to locate accurate serve-status information at the time of the hearing.

This isn’t a problem, however, with PPS, which delivers real-time serve status updates from the LEAP portal to the Prosecutor’s electronic case file. Going a step further, this data-driven approach also equips the prosecutor with the number of attempts it took to serve the witness.

In-Custody Arrests

In-custody arrests are time sensitive for the Prosecutor.  Typically, prosecutors have only 48 hours to make a charging decision.  If the Prosecutor fails to issue charges within this timeframe, law enforcement must let potentially dangerous offenders go free.  Unfortunately, mistakes and delays do occur, and inadvertent releases happen more than they should.

PPS protects the public against this threat by color coding in-custody prosecution requests red with high priority.  If prosecution requests are not screened within three hours, an automatic alert is sent out to the assigned attorney and office administrator.  Additional escalation alerts are sent to the Chief Assistant Prosecutor and the Prosecutor if the request still hasn’t been screened within a pre-designated timeframe. The combination of real-time data exchange with law enforcement and built-in priority escalation and alerts gives the prosecutor the upper hand in keeping dangerous felons off the street.

Conflict-of-Interest Cases

When a conflict of interest exists, prosecutors are obligated to lock out certain users from viewing a case file. This occurs when an office employee is closely related to a party or has some special relationship to the case that may call into question the person’s objectivity and how the case would be handled.  PPS safeguards sensitive details from these individuals to ensure the consistency and integrity of the office.

Policy Administration

For large offices or state-wide deployments, PPS manages policy and procedure administration from end-to-end through Document Knowledge Transfer and Compliance (DKTC). DKTC ensures all employees have access to the most up-to-date versions of required materials and that deadlines for review and acknowledgement are enforced. Compliance testing is available to gauge employees’ comprehension of distributed content via scoring reports and test certificates.

What We’re Really Trying to Say

PPS is a valuable tool for keeping the Prosecutor’s office and Law Enforcement Agencies compliant with state rules. Creating a digital environment with PPS also improves prosecution efficiency, consistency, and transparency. Jurisdictions across the nation are investing in this innovation and, as a result, better serving and protecting their communities.

PPS Cloud, a new tool for reducing upfront costs and deploy times, will also soon be available. Please contact us if you’re interested in learning more about staying statute compliant with the Paperless Prosecution Solution.

 

When Failed Integration Turns into Wrongful Incarceration

By: Katie Pusz, Copywriter, ImageSoft

Unless you’re a part of the super cool, niche group of people that doesn’t talk much but, when you do, it’s about software, you probably don’t get too pumped up about the word “integration.” We, on the other hand, could talk about the transformative effects of powerfully integrative software until our smartwatches tell us to go home. Even then, we would stay late to show you a fun demo, but most people will have left by then anyways.164_Chance_go_to_jail

So when real-world examples of preventable integration fails have life-changing impacts on innocent people, we get all riled up.

What to Say When You’re Being Arrested for a Dismissed Case?

Not me. Well, that’s what one of the nation’s biggest names in software development is trying to say after its court case management system was the reason for dozens of defendants in a very populous county being wrongly accused, arrested, jailed, and even registered as sex offenders.

Worse yet, these incidents are not isolated. Distressed by the same errors, numerous courts across the nation are responding to the county’s claims with “us too!”

How Could This Happen?

We thought you’d never ask! Let us explain. Again.

Integration is key when trying to successfully leverage any software. This is especially crucial in court cases where real-time information about prisoners and warrants needs to flow statewide among prisons, officers, courts, and more.

In situations like the above, failure to integrate with a court’s case management system means mistakes. Big ones. A lot of them. This is because the same case information lives in multiple systems across the criminal justice system, but updating that information at the sheriff’s office doesn’t update it for the court. And vice versa.

Simply put, the case management systems among the courts, prisons, police departments, etc., can’t talk to one another if they’re not integrated. When this happens, the status quo of a case isn’t clarified across the board and people act based only on the information they have. Cue wrongful arrests.

So Integration is Just a Group Chat?

Not quite. By integrating case management systems, the efficiency of your processes and the integrity of your data are both strengthened. Not only is data safely stored and accessible by all authorized parties, you never have to re-key information into multiple systems. Once the data is in, it’s everywhere it needs to be and always up-to-date.

When you’re processing nearly 1,000 cases per week (as most counties do), the time and money saved by having an integrated software is kind of a big deal.

Ready for Integration That’s On Point?

We’ve helped hundreds of criminal justice systems throughout the country stay in immediate and constant communication by exchanging data and documents among law enforcement, prosecutors, courts and more with just the click of a button.

How so? Through our eFiling technology for civil courts, our LEAP portal for criminal filings, and with a little help from our friend OnBase by Hyland. OnBase has standard APIs that allow for the secure exchange of data and documents with virtually any system.

But more important than the technology, we’re a company that loves to do integrations – it’s in our DNA, and we can’t help but to take the lead on working with your technology vendors to get you where you need to be.

And if you ever want to stick around for that fun demo, we know a few people who would be happy to show you!

After hearing what has happened to innocent people in several courts across the country, do you feel your court is vulnerable to the same miscommunication? How could the components of your case management system be more in sync?

A Crash Course: EFSPs and EFMs Explained the ImageSoft Way

By: Katie Pusz, Copywriter, ImageSoft

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When you decide to roll out state-wide eFiling, you’ll start hearing a lot of E-words. “EFSP,” “EFM” and pretty much e-everything. Eeek, we know! Confusing as all the acronyms and terminology can be, being versed in this knowledge will be the difference between optimizing the most of your digital toolbox or keeping your state’s filers e-ternally confused.

Spending a few minutes on this short crash course will set you on the path to understanding what’s available for optimizing state-wide efficiency.

EFSP 101

Despite being thrown off by the acronym, your eFilers know EFSPs all too well. E-Filing service providers are the user interfaces that attorneys, pro se litigants, prosecutor’s offices and all other eFilers use to submit filings and new case requests to the court. EFSPs act as an “online clerk” augmenting and mimicking the filing process at the counter, with the added flexibility of anytime, anywhere filing. The EFSP also provides up-to-the-minute status updates on filings and keeps transaction history at a filer’s fingertips.

EFM 101

Once filed with an EFSP, the data is sent to the appropriate eFiling Manager. Also known as the clerk’s FilingReview interface, EFMs act as traffic managers for incoming filings from one or more EFSPs exposing and enforcing the court requirements for the data and documents.  The EFM also manages the roles and security rights of court personnel managing the filings. If integrated, the EFM can also exchange this data with the case and document management systems of the respective courts.

EFSP and EFM: Working Together

Now that you understand the function of each, let’s watch them work together.

ESFPs are your filers first point of contact. From there, ESFPs transmit information to EFMs, or clerks, who will sort the eFiled data and move it along. If, for example, a jurisdiction was using different CMS/DMS for different court types, EFSPs could feed the multiple EFMs to get the job done.

The collaboration of EFSPs and EFMs is also very fruitful. First and foremost, it empowers filers with flexibility and options in terms of where and when they want to file, which translates into five-star customer service. In terms of cost savings, travel between the courts is eliminated, and so are the expenses of postage, paper, and ink. Truly the gift that keeps on giving, optimal customer service and multi-faceted cost savings is shared by all filers and the courts.

One great example of the collaborative power between EFSPs and EFMs is TrueFiling. A web-based portal for electronic filing, TrueFiling’s primary components are the EFSP and EFM, and the payment processor. It’s also ECM-conformant to support standard integrations, and powerful enough to serve and support highly-configurable and multi-jurisdictional needs.

Together with OnBase, TrueFiling is the preferred eFiling solution for courts, attorneys, and pro se litigants across the nation. The standard for enterprise content management (ECM), OnBase is a secure storehouse and workflow hub for all your data storage and communication needs.

The ImageSoft Way

Don’t sweat it if your court is already working with existing EFSPs or EFMs (or both!). Our innovative approach to implementation accounts for that and can integrate existing EFSPs to TrueFiling’s EFM, or vica versa, with an ECF-conformant link.

As a matter of fact, TrueFiling and OnBase solutions were designed specifically to accommodate several types of eFiling court configurations:

TrueFiling Hosted Courts: For courts new to eFiling, ImageSoft’s hosted TrueFiling and OnBase solutions will be used for filing and managing electronic documents.

Local On-Premise Courts: For courts that have already invested in an EDMS, ImageSoft provides the option to use either a hosted or local filing review while archiving and storing all eFiled documents in OnBase.

Third-Party Hosted Courts: Courts currently using an EFM from a different vendor will receive ImageSoft support for its third-party EFMs and EFSPs while eFiled documents are archived and stored in either OnBase or the court’s existing repository.

Choosing TrueFiling also means added value with the electronic commerce module, which allows filers access to court-approved electronic case files. With the electronic commerce module, courts can give filers the option of viewing and/or purchasing the entire list of filings associated with a case.

Tell Me More About TrueFiling!

Whether you feel that TrueFiling is definitely right for you, or you just want to learn more about all things “e,” send us a message. Our product experts and representatives love to chat about e-everything.

If you’re already using eFiling, how could you take efficiency to the next step? If you’re not, what’s holding you back?

 

 

Oakland County’s Oops: Paper Polls Interrupt Michigan’s Primary Elections

Voters in Oakland County, MI stepped up to the ballot in unprecedented numbers for the state’s 2018 primary elections. While so many voices symbolized a vote of confidence from the people, their strength in numbers revealed a weakness in the overall voting strategy: paper dependency.

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As Michigan’s second largest county, Oakland County experienced an unforeseen wave of voters across several communities, which caught many precincts off guard. As reported by the Detroit Free Press, many afternoon and evening voters throughout the county were told “Sorry! We’re out of ballots.” Michigan’s Secretary of State, however, was quick to jump in and reassure voters that anyone who was in line by the 8 p.m. closing time would still be able to vote and should stay at the precinct.

“We’ve been in touch with the county, which prints the ballots, and we’re being told that there aren’t going to be any more available,” said Mayor David Coulter of Ferndale. “So we’re making copies of the ballots and also implementing our touch-screen voting machines, which create a paper verification of the vote.”

Ballot Blunder Parallels Common Paper Struggles

While running out of ballots may be a rare occurrence, managing paper is a very common struggle. Similar to Ferndale’s solution, government agencies across the country are consistently printing, copying and mailing millions of papers each day. Not only is this process tedious, time consuming and stressful, it’s expensive. When Washington’s Yakima County District Court went paperless, for example, it saw a cost savings just shy of $15,000. Best yet, much of the recovered costs are often recycled back into the workday. Prior to its digital transformation, the Arlington County Circuit Court was spending an average of 15-20 hours per week just locating files and documents. Now, everything clerks need is just a click away.

While reading about Oakland County’s ballot blunder, it’s obvious to see the parallels between their struggle to replenish ballots and the daily paper fiascos endured by government agencies across the nation. And while the expense of it all is an undeniable setback, there were two additional primary challenges (pun intended) that are often overlooked and accepted as “the way it is”: scrambling to transport paper where it needs to go in a timely manner and providing quality customer service to constituents.

From Driving Directions to Digital Routes

Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown told the Detroit Free Press that “… county officials printed extra ballots and rushed them out to polling sites.” While this might have looked like mayhem to onlookers, it was probably just another day in the life of many clerks and government agency workers.

At prosecutor’s offices, for example, subpoenas, discovery documents, and crime lab reports are often driven around town by sheriffs, clerks, and runners just so that the paperwork can stay in motion. If mailed, someone is accruing postage expenses and the lifecycle of a case stands still while paperwork moves through the postal system.

With digital workflow, documents are electronically routed to the person who needs them with just the click of a button. And with features like TrueSign and TrueCertify, authorizing and authenticating documents takes only a minute, which is also the time it takes to push the documents forward to the next step. This is huge for time-sensitive matters – what would normally take hours of drive time or snail-mailing now takes just a few minutes.

Lifting the Paper Weight on Customer Service

“I think it’s great that we have such extraordinary turnout today, but we’d like to see a voter environment that’s 100 percent customer service oriented,” said Sharon Dolente, voting rights strategist for Michigan’s American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), to the Detroit Free Press.

Like Sharon said, many government agencies struggle to achieve even adequate customer service. And, like Oakland County experienced, it’s largely due to a paper obstruction. Many clerk’s offices are bottlenecked beyond their bandwidth and can’t find relief from continuous demands or legally mandated deadlines. Not only does this stress weigh on clerks and office workers, it diminishes morale across the board. Stressed out clerks can’t keep up with impatient constituents, who decry poor customer service and reinforce the entire agency’s low morale – it’s a vicious cycle. Worse yet, many document-centric offices try to hire more employees to keep up with the workload, but that only brings more people into the paper cycle and creates extra expenses.

By digitizing records management, many clerk’s offices have seen a serious boost in customer satisfaction and, consequently, office morale. By equipping agency workers with keyable searches and electronic workflows, they are able to manage a high-volume workload and then some. Not only does this make constituents happier, but the agency as an entity improves because clerks have time to tend to the tasks that have taken a backseat to locating files. By transforming your agency’s operations, you’ll elevate your agency’s customer satisfaction to a standard where five stars won’t be enough.

A Vote of Confidence for Paperless Processes

While Oakland County’s ballot blunder was exceptional, it’s a good wake-up call to the many paper-dependent processes that can’t keep up with society’s pace. We’re living in a world where time is precious, immediacy is a valued indicator of quality care, and meeting those expectations means empowering your office with the most efficient protocols for success.

For government agencies, prosecutor’s offices, courts, and all public-serving sectors, it’s an inevitable truth that paper has been outmoded for many logical reasons. So if you saw your agency or office in the primary election paper rush, maybe it’s time to start preparing for a paperless future.

Can you identify with wanting to be more efficient or improving your customer satisfaction? Which tactics have you pursued to fix those issues?

Cheers to Five Years: Arlington County Circuit Court Celebrates 5 Years of Paperless Processes

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It was 2013 and Fourth of July week when Arlington County Circuit Court’s criminal division was wearing bright blue shirts. Unlike the patriotic color, the shirt’s slogan that read “Project Paperless – Ask Us What This Means!” may not have immediately resonated with independence, but it was definitely a victory cry. Arlington County Circuit Court was preparing to liberate themselves from paper, and that kind of freedom was something they wanted everyone to celebrate.

Strategically planned on the week that many would be vacationing, the clerk’s office was open every day, but only for half a day. Doing so allowed the employees to lean into their learning curve without interrupting the public. But after pouring three-months of dedication into this new way of life, the staff began to lose morale. They had assumed that, by now, everything should have been flowing easily, but they were still moving along the learning curve.

Kudos for Coffee

Feeling that everyone could use a pick-me-up, the clerk’s office introduced Kudos for Coffee to its internal staff.

Each week, staff could email a sentence or two outlining a positive feature of their new paperless style. One winner was chosen, won a Starbucks gift card, and had their encouraging words posted in the office for all to see. “It reframed their mindset,” said Christina Dietrich, Business Systems Analyst at Arlington County Circuit Court. “Everyone was rallying together to focus on all the good that had come from this transition.”

This Calls For Sheet CakesArlingtonCountyCake

Before they knew it, Arlington County Circuit Court had been paperless for a full year. Then two, then three, then four. Each year, the office had recognized another year paperless by wearing “Project Paperless” shirts or throwing a pizza party. But when their fifth-year anniversary started approaching, the clerk’s office called for wide-spread celebration.

Unlike past anniversaries, the office invited their constituents and public to share in the festivities. Invitations were sent to eFiling attorneys through their local Bar association, and signs were posted on the kiosks and in the courthouse. “Happy Anniversary” banners were hung in public-facing areas, and each division was able to slogan, decorate and dawn their own cake. The criminal, civil, and land record divisions, as well as the public law library, all pulled together to design four festive sheet cakes for attendees. Each spoke encouraging phrases like “Project Paperless: Where Less Is Really More!” and “Forests are green, oceans are blue, we went paperless for the earth, me and you!” And yes, the exuded excitement was truly contagious. By the time The Project Paperless Party had arrived, sheriffs, attorneys, eFilers, and more began to shuffle in at 9:30 a.m. for a piece of cake from the paperless system that had given them all peace of mind for the past five years.

AlringtonCountyPoemCakeAnd because Kudos for Coffee was such a big hit, it was brought back for the entire week of the five-year anniversary. But instead of keeping it as an internal raffle for one winner, the public was welcomed to participate, and three winners were awarded. Submissions had also changed from simple statements of “I don’t have to carry buckets of files into court anymore” to well-thought-out poems, haikus, and other creative ways of illustrating their love for being paperless. One person even entered a hole-puncher and asked “do you recognize this? It used to be an integral part of assembling files, but it’s completely disappeared since going paperless!”

By the end of the week, Kudos for Coffee had awarded three different attorneys with a free remote subscription to TrueFiling for up to one year.ArlingtonCountyLessIsMore

“I don’t think we’ll throw big celebrations like this every year, but we will recognize our paperless anniversary each year,” said Christina. “It truly is worthwhile to step back and compare where we were to where we’ve come. It’s good to celebrate that accomplishment.”

A Truly Justified Celebration

Since going paperless in 2013, Arlington County Circuit Court has seen a roughly 20 percent increase in its filings. Best yet, the paperless system’s efficiency allows the court to manage its increased case volume without also increasing its headcount. In the last year alone, the court has seen a 19 percent increase in its number of electronically filed documents.

And while we all may not be able to party paperless like Arlington, we can certainly learn from their story: small changes make huge impacts, and that’s something to celebrate.

 

A Content Writer Walks Into A Prosecutor’s Office…

By: Katie Pusz, Copywriter, ImageSoft

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To be more specific, it was me – a 5’1” content writer — walking into the St. Clair County Courthouse, and I’m pretty sure it was the door security who had a good laugh as I uncertainly put my belongings on the conveyor belt to be scanned. Clearly, nervous me was the least of their worries, which helped to put me more at ease. I guess being small and nerdy does have its perks.

Smiling Click to Click

Once I made it past that rigorous security checkpoint, I was now walking into the prosecutor’s office. St. Clair County Prosecutor Michael Wendling and his support team were kind enough to host me for a few hours and walk me through the every-day applications of ImageSoft’s Paperless Prosecutor Solution. Again, I was greeted with smiles and light-hearted humor from all, and immediately felt comfortable enough to be myself.

Before touring me through the office, Michael took some time to chat with me about his perspective on our paperless solution. In our short conversation, I was already taken aback by how much value he was describing just from a prosecutor’s perspective. Much of his emphasis was on the digital workflow, which housed expert opinions, case notes, and other crucial information directly on the file. Best yet, the prosecutor had all this information at his fingertips in real time. Not only was this huge for court prep and general work on the file, but it was crucial to having well-informed conversations with victims or any of their loved ones who might call on a whim. Not surprisingly, just having these few efficiencies enhanced communication among the entire office and boosted the overall morale. Suddenly, the many smiles that greeted me were making sense!

A Very Millennial Assumption

Before I dive any deeper into all that I learned from my visit, I have a confession to make. I am a millennial, and because technology has been an instrumental tool for much of my life, I automatically conceptualize processes in a way that leverages the digital world. So when I learned that many law firms, prosecutor’s offices, courts, and law enforcement agencies are still so paper-heavy, I was shocked! After all, it is 2018 (looking at you, paper lovers!).

One of the St. Clair County clerks recalled the times before they were paperless and actually employed an extra person just to assemble files. And I do mean assemble, complete with manila folders, hand-written labels, and a lot of paper. That’s all this person did – all day! That entire process is now done in a few minutes with even fewer clicks, and it’s not buried in filing cabinets or collecting dust under a desk, and the most up-to-date file can be quickly accessed by all authorized parties. One workflow fixed at least three glaring problems that plague almost every office – who would’ve thought!

Becoming aware of my own assumption that all things are digitized also made me think about the opposite side of the coin: there are many people who conceptualize processes, legal and every-day, as paper-heavy, pencil-in-hand activities. As someone from the across the pendulum, I’m not passing judgment. But I do hope that reading this blog will shed some light on a few efficiency problems you may not have even realized were problems, and open you up to the solutions that can help you.

Behind the Scenes: Warrant Processing

My first stop was the warrant processing department. At the beginning of every day, the clerk looks to her electronic workflow for any in-custody warrants (conveniently highlighted in red) because she knows those need her immediate attention. Within the workflow, the clerk can assign each warrant a case tracking number (CTN), assign the warrant to the appropriate authorizing attorney and push it into that attorney’s queue. From there, the authorizing attorney can electronically send the approved or denied warrant back to the prosecutor’s office. If the warrant is approved by the attorney, it’s placed in an electronic work folder alongside evidence, police reports, search warrants, fingerprints, and other related information. As the clerk explained, anyone with access to the workflow can key that CTN and see all case information and related charges or felonies, and even generate a witness list.

Sometimes, people want to re-open a case that hasn’t been touched in years. “In the paper days, we would have to start fresh because the original file would have been shredded to make room for new files,” said the clerk. “But today, that’s not a problem. We simply key a CTN search and up pops all the case’s information.”

While most of these processes are generally done in a few minutes, the clerk did mention the longest part of her day. “PDF printing into OnBase, which takes an entire 10 minutes.” For those who aren’t familiar with OnBase by Hyland, the core of the Paperless Prosecutor Solution, users can store content directly from any application into OnBase by using Window’s print function, whether it’s a report from a website or data from another system.

Behind the Scenes: Subpoenas

Down another hallway, I chatted with a different clerk who managed subpoenas. Fun fact: the entire office space where this clerk sits used to be dedicated solely to case storage. Imagine it: banker boxes and filing cabinets everywhere!

Once inside their case management system (CMS), the clerk keyed a swift shift + left click to pull a case file and could see all its related information and charges, including bench trial notes. Subpoenas that are ready to be issued are then electronically sent to the police cars that are nearest to the person being served. The officer can then print the subpoena straight from his or her squad car and potentially serve the person within minutes.

“Before we had this electronic workflow, we printed subpoenas and they sat in a pick-up box until an officer stopped by to grab it,” said the subpoena processing clerk. “Worse yet, if an officer had the subpoena but then went off shift or on vacation, the subpoena would just sit in the officer’s bag until he or she came back on duty. Often, the subpoena would get lost or forgotten about, and the person would never be served.”

Now, the subpoenas are immediately issued and typically get served right away. If they can’t be served straightaway, at least they stay top-of-mind in the officer’s queue. And with a full audit trail, the prosecutor can be confident in court when saying whether a subpoena has been served, when, and by whom.

Behind the Scenes: Discovery

When an officer has received evidence relating to a case, he or she is able to electronically upload it to a digital discovery portal where it is automatically shared with the prosecutor’s office. Police reports, lab results, photos and more are then included in an exhibit list and electronically sent over to the appropriate defense attorney.

If the clerks aren’t sure of the defense attorney on file, they can quickly key a search to find the P number on the case.

A Content Writer Walks Out of a Prosecutor’s Office

And wanders around, half-panicked that my nerdy self can’t remember where I parked my car.

Eventually I find it though, and enjoy the lake view in my rearview mirror as I drive off, knowing that The Paperless Prosecutor Solution has maximized this county’s case processing efficiency and strengthened the safety of this peaceful community. My only hope is that more prosecutor’s offices can better protect and serve their communities by sharing in the story of “I remember when…” instead of the daily, “we need more paper again!”

 

 

 

Through an Officer’s Eyes: How Going Paperless is Strengthening Law Enforcement

By: Katie Pusz, Copywriter, ImageSoft 

As the first eyes on a crime scene, law enforcement sees a case from the first-responder’s call all the way to a conviction. While officers understandably want to stay updated on the lifecycle of their cases, their intimacy and communication with the entire process is also critical to putting criminals behind bars and ensuring a successful prosecution.

Typically, prosecutors and law enforcement have no problem joining forces, but many do run into a problem communicating it. As explained by Bronx Law Guide, the prosecution process takes about one year from the time a suspect is arrested until they go to trial. That may not seem like a long while, but when rape or homicide is the situation at hand, time is everything.

Where is time being lost?

158_policetechIn-between the lines… literally. After evaluating an incident, an officer now must prepare a report. Sometimes they are handwritten, or sometimes they are typed and printed, but reports have historically always been on paper. Either way, the document then needs to be physically transported to the prosecuting attorney’s (PA) office. Once the PA makes his or her decision, the paper report has to make its way back to the officers, who then have to disseminate that information to everyone on the case. Because there is often significant mileage between the main office, sub-stations, and officers on the field, this creates a notable time delay and poses a threat to the overall integrity of the case.

The Solution?

An entirely paperless process. One of the most sought-after features of The Paperless Prosecutor Solution is TrueFiling’s LEAP (law enforcement agency portal). Through its secure channel, LEAP rapidly transmits critical information between law enforcement and the prosecutor. From securing warrants and subpoena management to evidence submittal and updating a case’s status, LEAP electronically communicates all pertinent information within minutes, even from a PA’s office in one corner of a county to an officer on the field.

Producing Possibility Post-Paper

Being alleviated from paper-heavy files and not relying on good traffic conditions to make progress on a case are only two of the many benefits of The Paperless Prosecutor Solution. Electronic communication opens the door to several other means for a seamless, real-time trade of information between officers, prosecutors, and sheriffs.

  1. Instant Gratification from Instant Communication 

    As mentioned earlier, The Paperless Prosecutor Solution was designed to address the lag in communication between law enforcement, prosecutors, and courts. But not only will Law Enforcement be able to facilitate faster processes, they will also receive automatic notifications on any informational updates, including the prosecutor’s notes, real-time case status updates, dispositions, evidence management, and more. Charging documents will also be sent, received, and accessed electronically. Eliminating the need for a runner, these digitized changes also liberate officers from their desks while still allowing them to check a case or communicate documents.

  2. You’ll be Smitten with Submittin’ 

    Digitizing communication lessens the risk of human error by standardizing the submittal process. The electronic forms require all necessary data is collected, and ensures every submission adheres to the same procedure. Its highly-configurable integrative powers make The Paperless Prosecutor Solution an option for any current RMS and, as a result, any office. And if you’re not at the office? No problem! So long as you have secure internet connection, you can access exactly what you need, whenever you need it.

  3. The Audit You’ll Actually Want 

    No, the IRS isn’t coming for you. With a full audit trail for all documents, file owners are able to see who accessed or edited a document and when, which ensures accountability for sensitive documents like subpoenas. Police departments will no longer have to manually maintain a log sheet of their communications, as documents will automatically log two-way communications.

  4. Automating Your Autograph 

    Even more in demand than Brad Pitt’s signature, law enforcement needs to securely and efficiently lend their autograph daily. With TrueSign, officers and sheriffs can electronically and remotely sign charging documents, search warrants, and more.

What Are You Waiting For? LEAP to it!

With the ability to quickly push cases along and put criminals behind bars sooner rather than later, The Paperless Prosecutor Solution is a revolutionary tool for law enforcement and, most importantly, the entire criminal justice system.

 

What part of The Paperless Prosecutor Solution will be of greatest benefit to your team?

Scammers in the System: Florida Enforces Stricter eFiling Security Measures

By: Katie Pusz, Copywriter, ImageSoft

156_escammerThere’s always one.

After a scammer was able to hack an attorney’s eFiling account and take off with $130,000, Florida Courts E-Filing Authority was understandably shaken. Realizing such a vulnerability in its midst, the board quickly removed all non-lawyer eFiling accounts, which included the right-hand people of many lawyers – office managers.

Office managers typically rely on the eFiling portals to assist their law firms with managing cases, tracking files and payments, and more. Rather than creating their own account, many attorneys rely on their office managers’ accounts to perform their eFilings.

While there are still secure systems in place for pro se litigants and other non-lawyers to eFile, Florida lawyers will now have to submit their electronic files through an account attached to their bar number. If an attorney wishes to create any additional accounts, they will need to undergo a more extensive inspection by portal operators.

Speaking of Security…

Prior to eFiling, paper files were literally tossed a clerk’s desk where they sat until they were processed. Anyone could have picked up the file and stolen a client’s identity or other sensitive information. Developed to be more efficient and protective than paper-reliant processes, eFiling added an extra layer of armor to the security of every file. In such a technologically advanced era, eFiling must continuously evolve to strengthen its cybersecurity tactics.

A prime example of this is TrueFiling by ImageSoft, which just released its 3.0 version. With a continued focus on scam-proofed security measures, TrueFiling’s format is now similar to that of LinkedIn: Filers can send connection requests to other clients, attorneys, office managers, and more, and an accepted request will exist as consent between the two or more users. This step ensures that users cannot slyly add another contact as a service recipient. Filers must first be connected with one another as to acknowledge them as a party on a specific case.

Another TrueFiling security measure is the use of an administrative account for a law firm. Any person who registers to eFile as a representative of a law firm must be approved by an eFiling administrator of the law firm. This extra step enables the support staff to continue doing their job under their own, approved accounts, which actually strengthens security since attorneys aren’t sharing their passwords and account information with anyone. And with TrueFiling’s full audit trail, you can track and hold accountable those who were working on a file. If an entire office’s support staff is sharing and working under one attorney’s account, all that’s known is that “someone” was working on the file. With TrueFiling, there is no gray area – only full transparency.

Stepping toward upped security, TrueFiling also requires every filer be a registered user with an e-mail address. Sure, scammers could try to fake an email address to look like an attorney, but eFiling would then take some extra steps. By integrating TrueFiling’s software with that state’s Bar, the user’s bar number would have to be validated before he or she is deemed a registered user. You could further enhance the system’s functionality to only allow one bar number per user, which would be more than sufficient since support staff would maintain their own accounts.

Avoiding Future Flubs Everywhere

The connection-request process or law firm administrative oversight demands approval and accountability through each step of the eFiling process. This empowers attorneys to better protect their clients by harnessing complete control over who is accessing their cases and files. By applying this checks-and-balances type system, every eFiling application can avoid a scammer slithering into their case in the first place. And allow assistants to file on behalf of an attorney.

What security checkpoints does your court’s, office’s, or law firm’s eFiling system use?