Arizona Moves Ahead With Virtual Court System Overhaul

The state of Arizona, in partnership with Thomson Reuters, announced the launch of their virtual court system, which allows critical evidence to be digitized, stored and shared remotely.

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The state of Arizona launched a virtual court system with the goal of making hearings run more efficiently by having all case-related information available in one platform. 

The Digital Evidence Center, which is the result of a partnership between the state of Arizona and Thomson Reuters, is a cloud-based platform that allows courts to facilitate virtual and hybrid hearings, while providing all parties within a case the opportunity to organize and present documents, multimedia exhibits and evidence. 

According to Steve Rubley, president of the government segment of Thomson Reuters, the center came about after evaluating the inefficiencies associated with the existing state judicial system. 

Originally a product from a U.K.-based company, the Digital Evidence Center, formerly known as CaseLines, was built for the purpose of sharing digital evidence among lawyers and judges.  

“We found a company in the U.K. that had a product on the market that was built for sharing digital evidence,” Rubley said. “The company worked with 1,500 judges in countries around the world who found CaseLines to be a highly secure tool that enabled their agencies to adopt the cloud.” 

The partnership, Rubley said, started at the beginning of the pandemic. “We liked what they built, and after testing their product, we decided to acquire the company. Shortly after that, we brought the product to the U.S.,” he said. "The state of Arizona adopted the technology statewide.” 

From a judicial perspective, Dave Byers, director of the administrative office of the Arizona Courts, said, “Our courts are associated with the National Center for State Courts. Within the organization, its joint technology committee conducted a study around two to three years ago that focused on what courts are going to do as the amount of digital evidence continues to increase.”

From that study, he said, “due to the rapid expansion of digital evidence being provided by police body cams, car cams, iPhones, security cameras and so on, the state decided to set up its own committee to investigate what to do regarding this matter.” 

As the committee compiled information related to this issue, the state began what would become an 18-month search for a system that could manage and store troves of digital evidence.

“CaseLines is the only system that met our requirements,” Byers said. “The system needed to not only receive digital evidence, but needed to manage it and store it for years to come as evidence from over the years can be requested for appeals.”

As for how this platform is currently being incorporated into Arizona state courts, Byers said, “we are going to introduce the Digital Evidence Center platform to six courts; three that handle general jurisdiction issues such as criminal and felony cases and three that handle limited jurisdiction issues such as traffic violation cases.” 

“Once we prove that the system works well,” he said, “the platform will be expanded and incorporated into 180 other courts throughout Arizona.” 

Other focus areas regarding the platform include evaluating how the platform can reduce evidence storage costs, Byers said.

The goal is to come up with a way to move evidence from active storage, he said, which includes evidence that is relatively new or highly to be used in a hearing and "cold storage," which consists of older evidence. 

“If there is an appeal, being able to move evidence from cold storage to active storage on demand could help significantly,” Byers said. “We hope to prove that this concept works. If it does, it could potentially decrease storage costs by 90 percent.” 

Katya Maruri is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in global strategic communications from Florida International University, and more than five years of experience in the print and digital news industry.