PROBLEM/SITUATION: Courts burdened with paper and slow access procedures.
SOLUTION: A cross-court document imaging system.
JURISDICTION: Consolidated and Coordinated Courts of Riverside County, Calif.
VENDORS: Data General, ISD, Genesis.
CONTACT: Garry Raley, assistant executive officer, Consolidated and Coordinated Courts of Riverside County, 909/275-5531; Stan Gobozy, judicial services supervisor for document imaging, 909/275-1613.
By David Aden
"I'm sorry -- that document is located off-site. Please fill out this request form, leave it with me and you'll be notified when it's ready to be picked up."
This, or some version of it, is a mantra all too familiar to citizens and lawyers who need or want to get copies of documents filed in court cases across the country.
Courts live and breathe documents -- tens of thousands of pages of documents every day in the form of complaints, answers to complaints, motions, oppositions to motions, answers to oppositions, etc. The life of any court depends on the orderly inflow and outflow of documents. Yet today many courts are choking on the paper they generate.
To address these problems Riverside, Calif., began to build an integrated infrastructure for
its judicial system several years ago. Designed to use database, imaging and networking technology to present an integrated, efficient face to the public, the idea was to lay the groundwork for an eventual move from a paper-based behemoth to a user-friendly paperless system. Although Riverside has not gone paperless yet, it has taken major steps toward that goal.
Riverside is a geographically diverse county approximately 200 miles long and 60 miles wide. It contains several large, distinct communities and has civil, family law, probate, traffic, criminal and juvenile courts.
The fundamental piece of the Riverside infrastructure is a document management system into which all filings in any case are entered. What sets this apart is that it is a cross-court system -- you can go into any facility and make a filing for any other court. Notification of the filing is routed to the proper place.
"Before the system existed, there were separate municipal courts with their own jurisdictions and superior courts with separate venues," said Garry Raley, assistant executive officer for the Consolidated and Coordinated Courts of Riverside County. "If you lived in a particular catchment area, you would have to go to the court that related to that area. By doing cross filings with the automated case management system, we can provide service for people in a remote area or for people who just live in another area."
The system is used for everything from filing pleadings in a case to paying traffic violations. For example, someone who gets a traffic ticket in Indio or Corona, but lives in Riverside, can save a 30- to 40-minute drive by paying at the courthouse in their home town.
Taking the next step toward a paperless environment, Riverside has integrated document imaging with the document management system. When someone comes in to make a filing, key information is entered into the document management system including the case number, the name of the filer and the type of document. At that point the document has been filed, whether or not the case it relates to is physically located in the same building. Where the document goes from there depends on what court it is in. Documents for cases in civil court are sent to the document imaging staff.
"Basically, everything is checked as soon as the [document imaging] operator picks up a document," said Stan Gobozy, judicial services supervisor for document imaging. "The quality assurance begins right then. They enter the document management system and scroll to the particular date and then select the document they have in their