Sept 95 Level of Govt: State, Local Function: Court administration Problem/situation: Pennsylvania courts need to coordinate operations and increase public access to court information, without decimating the budget

Solution: Develop a World Wide Web page on the Internet

Jurisdiction: Pennsylvania

Vendors: General Atomics Corp., Netscape Communications Corp., National Center for Supercomputing, IBM, NetManage Corp., MKS Contacts: Tom Darr and John Davenport at the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts (717/795-2026); Jim McMillan at the National Center for State Courts (202/253-2000) By James Evans Contributing Editor You might not expect the oldest court in the United States to face this quandary: how to stay young

Young in this case means staying current with technology to enhance court operations. The Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) wanted to know how to do it. Age tends to set people and organizations in their comfortable ways and less willing to embrace change. Certainly that's what you might anticipate from a court system established in 1722 - hidebound, traditional and suspicious of newfangled methods

Not in Pennsylvania. The court system has 273 years under its belt, and if there's one note of advice court administrators have passed down through the generations: you either keep up with the times or wilt. Administrators in Pennsylvania weren't content merely to stay abreast of developments. The most elderly court in the land had a duty to lead, and the path led right to the Internet, specifically to the World Wide Web

In April the AOPC became one of the first state court systems to have a presence on the Internet, a global computer network with an estimated 30 million users. The newest and hottest star of the show - the Web - has rapidly dominated the growth of the Internet since its appearance in 1990 because of its ability to display text, sound, color graphics and video

Pennsylvania's Web page is located at: http://www.cerf.net/penns-courts

"It solves an enormous number of problems," said Tom Darr, director of Administration and Communications at the AOPC. "There's so much information in electronic form that it was becoming a burden to make that information available to county and state agencies. That information also is of interest to public and private groups." Like numerous other courts - principally federal appeals, district and bankruptcy courts - Pennsylvania had set up an electronic bulletin board system in late 1992 that allowed court officials and other people to call a telephone number and access judicial information with their computers. But the number of callers was limited by the number of modems on the system. As more courts joined the effort and more people heard about the court bulletin board, the AOPC had to buy more and more modems to accommodate the demand. It was an expensive cycle, especially in a time of budget reductions

"All those problems go away on the Internet," said Darr. "A major information sharing problem has always been to have one place to post information so it can be readily searched. It's a win-win situation. We win by getting the information out easily, and the public wins by getting the information smoothly without delay." By information, Darr means both internal operations of 550 statewide courts of all variety and the networking of 67 trial courts statewide, involving 353 judges. In addition, Darr and his colleagues wanted to improve public access to judicial material including court calendars, statistical data about the Pennsylvania justice system, news announcements and legislative testimony. While actual decisions still aren't available, the state Supreme Court and lower appellate courts are expected to post opinions online soon

To make official and public access efficient and cost-effective, the AOPC Director of Data Processing, John Davenport, turned to the Web. Hisfirst concern was whether to buy additional computer equipment to develop and support their own Web server,

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