The mainframe was totally restrictive from using a mouse."

When a 911 call comes in, for example, a dispatcher writes up a report on that call, and if a police officer is involved, he or she also writes up a report. Those reports go to the Sheriff's Office, and then to the District Attorney's Office. It is then up to the District Attorney to decide to file a complaint or sit on the reports until more evidence is collected. The District Attorney may hold onto the reports for up to one year until prosecutors have sufficient evidence to file.

With the new system, that information is easily accessible online.

Once the District Attorney's Office determines there is sufficient evidence to file a complaint, it files the necessary paperwork, which is integrated with the Superior Court's system. Each case is given a number by which it can be tracked for the remainder of its life.

Brasher said outside analysts who evaluated the system were impressed by the new system's obtainable source code and functionality.

"They thought it was user-friendly," Brasher said. "They saw the speed, and they liked the way we had laid it out."

The system handles cases from any division in the court, whether it's traffic, probate or small claims.

"It spans all the different divisions, and the only difference between the divisions is a screen making it easier for a certain division to use," Brasher said, noting the quickened process of entering traffic information, which was previously a nightmare because of the number of cases entered.

The system also allows for cross-references between courts, allowing personnel to access any information on an individual in the system regardless of which court possesses the information. Previous stovepiping of information didn't allow for such easy access.

"That has helped us cut down on lawsuits and potential problems," Brasher said, citing that police officers now have easy online access to restraining orders. "They don't have to wait for a fax or an e-mail to them to let them know there's a restraining order when they're about to walk into a domestic violence situation."

Brasher said she evaluated many case management systems, and the Superior Court's system was developed with an eye toward expansion.

"There were so many things we considered when we started," she said. "We kept thinking it could be global some day. I wasn't thinking, 'Stanislaus County doesn't do it that way, so we don't need that.' I was thinking a lot more globally."

That's nothing new in Stanislaus County. It was one of the first counties to consolidate its Superior and Municipal courts in the early 1990s -- even before state legislation mandated such consolidation.

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor