December 8, 2005 By Alison Sonntag
"A couple of vendor solutions we looked at here were very interesting -- particularly warrants and the electronic passing of details," said David Morris, Information Services manager of the Scottish Court Service, a national Justice Department agency managing the performance of the courts in Scotland, who reports to the First Minister of Scotland. "The vendor can offer it as a kind of service," said Morris. "The minister will appreciate something that's already there. We can use it or develop our own."
Morris' colleague, Robert Jenkins, is the deputy IS manager, and Jenkins said he's investigating new case management system applications, especially e-filing and how U.S. courts are advancing e-filing and making themselves more efficient
"We have case management for civil and criminal cases," Jenkins said. "In guardianship cases, we have had electronic case filing since 2001. All documents are submitted in paper and scanned, creating a digital image. The problem is the electronic signature. It is nice to know that this can be overcome."
Among the broad themes of CTC9 was the efficient and effective handling of information, the lifeblood of the court system. It's gathered, stored, analyzed and shared. Many of the presentations and vendor displays at the conference focused on ways to maintain and enhance the flow of information throughout the courts, and the entire justice system.
Storing information within the court system is moving from traditional paper to electronic images and data, and two CTC9 presenters on the topic of receiving and storing documents electronically had similar programs with a couple of major differences.
King County, Wash., developed its system locally and maintains control of the documents. Colorado created its through a public/private partnership with LexisNexis, and documents are stored by the company with online retrieval capability for all users.
How the courts gather and use information was also covered through presentations on e-discovery, real-time criminal history and a program that provides judges with information on how various sentencing options affected offender adjustment and rehabilitation.
One specific CTC9 session dealt with sharing information and processes with the public called "Leveraging Public Internet Connectivity."
"The Web can also serve the courts by providing information that is in demand by litigants and the public -- such as daily calendars, case data and jury information," said Tom Clarke, the National Center for State Courts' (NCSC) CIO and vice president of research. "Thurston County [in Washington state], for instance, offers the ability to pay fines and participate in online mediation. Technology can also make it easier and cheaper to share data."
This presents a challenge because though court records fall in the realm of public information, they often contain private data.
"Physical security and cyber-security are becoming more important issues, partly because of the fear of identify theft," Clarke said on the struggle for balance between access and privacy. "We are just starting to have enough states that have access rules to have lessons learned. The sky is not falling. People have made decisions across a wide spectrum of rules, and no one had experienced a disaster."
A presentation on data regulation and access management tackled this issue.
"The biggest procedural problem is the redaction of privacy data from court records that are otherwise publicly available," Clarke continued. "Court clerks don't want to incur the labor costs of redaction, but current software is not entirely up to automated redaction yet."
Securing the Data
How to keep information, cyber and otherwise, safe was discussed in sessions about disaster preparedness, including a session presented by members of the
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