Now when superior court judges hear a case, they will have access to data immediately; before they didn't have access to information without going through the Georgia court data center, where they may have had to go through two or three different courts."

From the Ground Up

Crystal Reports also runs reports from SUSTAIN, the AOC's case management system used by more than 50 Georgia courthouses.

Basto and his IT staff are currently preparing to install SUSTAIN in the Georgia Supreme Court to help the judicial institution transition to an electronic document environment and start filing appellate cases electronically. Crystal Reports will also be used with SUSTAIN to provide critical data to the Supreme Court.

The data tracked by Crystal Reports has been used to identify trends and patterns in criminal activities that were not as clear prior to the tool's implementation.

The more than 600 reports and myriad information gathered by AOC employees -- judges, clerks and other judiciary members -- prompted several important decisions in 2005, including the formation of special commissions and committees.

One such example is the Georgia Alliance for Drug Endangered Children (GADEC), which was formed in 2005 after reports on juvenile crime and drug treatment programs indicated a dangerous trend among Georgia's youth.

The reports found that juveniles living next to Georgia highways were using drugs more frequently than their peers.

"The new AOC platform gives us a way to get necessary data to see where we need to focus our attention and where our problems are," said Peggy Walker, judge at Douglas County Juvenile Court and founder of the GADEC. "We looked at drug use and saw methamphetamines were a big problem and saw patterns of use across northern Georgia, along the corridors of the expressway. It gave us a clearer picture we would not have had otherwise."

The AOC business intelligence platform and Crystal Reports are extremely useful tools in understanding what is happening in the state, Walker said, especially since the courts don't have the means to fund studies and gather the necessary information to subsidize commissions.

"We don't have [the] ability to fund that type of research and to have that type of information," Walker said. "If the AOC can have that information, we can use that to form our budgets, and then when we can look for resources. So it's a vital part of helping us to do our jobs well."

Crystal Reports also generates intelligence that determines judicial appointments based on statewide case count statistics and whether additional judges are needed to address an increase in caseload.

"Through the use of this reporting software, we saw that we had big deficiencies in data, and what we were missing," Basto said. "Now we're incorporating in our applications around 600 reports, from end-of-month reports to receipts."

Next Platform

Basto is working to make the AOC platform the premier source of judicial data in the state. It is a huge undertaking he admits, but he is already anticipating the possibilities of the new technology. Once the system is fully deployed, Basto said he foresees a comprehensive, unified network throughout Georgia, where state, county and city agencies can consolidate and share their data across multiple networks, applications and information sources.

Basto said the new system will consist of a standardized platform that not only supports the AOC, but also the Department of Motor Vehicles, police and sheriff departments, the Department of Corrections, and any other state or city municipality conducting an investigation and needing to access information from disparate databases, including the DHS.

"There is not an agency I know of in Georgia that does not allow complete state-side information to be shared," Basto said. "I don't see why we cannot go toward that goal. Our system is only as good as the information it provides."

Chandler Harris  |  Contributing Writer