Offenders on trial in Georgia might soon be surprised to see their judge typing on a laptop and reviewing their criminal history in real time.

This is just one feature of the new business intelligence platform implemented by Georgia's Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). With the new platform, judges will know as much -- if not more -- about a defendant than police officers, parole officers and social workers.

The AOC supports Georgia's 1,100 courts, including the supreme, superior, state and juvenile courts, as well as the court of appeals. When Jorge Basto stepped in as the AOC's CIO in January 2005, he realized it was time to reconcile how the state's 1,592 judges interacted with more than 50 judicial case management systems.

Fast Forward

Basto said he wanted the AOC to become as efficient as the private sector, and consolidate the data from the fractured case management systems by creating a unified, automated and centralized system.

He turned to Business Objects for platform support and to create a Web-based application that lets the AOC incorporate and centralize data from disparate platforms and back-end systems.

"What we're trying to roll out for this year is a business intelligence environment to enable judges to access data more freely," Basto said. "Right now the case management systems are not being used to their full capabilities -- without the analysis these case management systems allow for."

Basto compares the old AOC system to a feudal system with numerous data fiefdoms, each with its own operating system. Under the new centralized business intelligence platform, judiciary courthouses will not only maintain their own individual operating platforms, but they will also be able to access information from a central portal via the AOC network.

"Our agency in no way wants to force changes in the courts' processes and their specific applications," Basto said. "The workflow and day-to-day operations would continue as they need, but a separate environment, which would be hosted and maintained at the AOC, would allow a portal view of judicial data -- such as directory information, and eventually case specific data as allowable."

The new portal will improve collaboration among judges, and in the future, allow expedited information exchange between Georgia's judiciary, legislative and law enforcement organizations. The new system will let federal and local law enforcement access the portal and use the data to support the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) initiatives and inquiries. The implementation, Basto said, has already enabled the AOC to increase efficiency and reduce costs in many areas.

One of the new portal's cost-saving mechanisms is built in Business Objects' Crystal Reports software, which generates reports from a wide range of data sources. With this software, the AOC can consolidate and report on case elements, such as the name, address, search and fugitive warrants, judge and lawyers involved, probation, fines and disposition. Once disposed, Crystal Reports adds the case to a historical database that can be shared with local, state or national organizations.

For example, traffic citations that fall under particular guidelines are transmitted to the Department of Driver Services, and specific criminal and civil data must be transmitted to the court clerks and federal entities.

Basto envisions that AOC judges will eventually use laptops on the bench to access real-time historical information from a databank relevant to each case. He anticipates the new platform will also connect with judiciary systems outside Georgia, giving judges access to previous citations and offenses in other states.

Although no preliminary work has been done with other states to move toward this goal, Basto said the collection of data and reporting would lend itself to "data marts" where relevant and consistent data could be mapped. "Before, there was a lot of paper and pencil," Basto said. "

Chandler Harris  |  Contributing Writer