that it required a new court management system" for justice of the peace courts, he said. "It was not possible to add more hard drives."

The November integration was a major step for Harris County courts. There are advantages to integrating justice of the peace courts into the larger county network in addition to avoiding redundancy. For example, if a justice of the peace judge issues a warrant, the data is loaded onto the JIMS database and can be accessed by the rest of the court system, including law enforcement officers. "It not only enables an update of a warrant, but the district attorney can send e-mail to prosecutors staffing remote court sites," Leverette said.

Another advantage is the potential to collect more revenue from people paying off their citations. The justice of the peace court jurisdictions are based on geography, and a person getting a speeding ticket would have to go to the court in that area to pay the fine. With the integrated system, a speeder can pay in any of the courts.

Until recently, local justice of the peace courts were isolated and couldn't query each other's dockets and records. This meant that people with situations in more than one court, such as speeding tickets, would have to contact each separately to find information, such as schedules and the status of cases.

VIDEO PLANS

In the future, the county may run videoconferencing through the network. Courts located on one side of the county have more cases than less populated areas, leading to disparities in case loads. If video is run through the network, justice of the peace judges could preside remotely and help even out dockets in the system.

Another possibility is that the calendar part of JIMS could be made available online through the Internet or other remote access. This could help reduce calls from people asking about scheduling and routine court information.

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