Saturday, November 1, 2014

Moving the Appellate Court Case Management System into the Twenty-First Century

December 1, 2010 by Robert Rath, Esq.

Information technology offers exciting opportunities for courts to enhance staff productivity while expanding the services offered to their constituents.  Indiana’s appellate courts are exploring ways to improve the appellate process by updating the related technology.

The current Appellate Case Management System has been in-place since the mid-1980s.  If the system could breathe, it would be old enough to drive, vote, and buy a bottle of wine.  While the software has served the courts well for over two decades, the technology is showing its age and limits the courts’ ability to deliver enhanced services to their constituents.

A project team comprised of staff from the appellate courts and clerk’s office and the Division of State Court Administration have taken the first steps toward procuring and implementing a twenty-first century appellate court case management system.  This journey is much like that taken by our trial courts and the Judicial Technology and Automation Committee (JTAC) staff in recent years.

Over several months, the project team documented the internal processes and data flows of our current appellate process.  The staffs of twenty-one appellate justices and judges, the administrators of the three appellate courts, and the staff of the Clerk’s Office contributed information and suggestions.  The project team identified the requirements that any new system must satisfy, along with additional features that would be nice to have.  Required features include:

  1. document management capabilities;
  2. integrated query and reporting tools;
  3. enhanced public access over the Internet; and
  4. support for electronic filing of appellate documents by attorneys, trial courts, and county clerks.

The effort led to the publication of a Public Notice of Contracting Opportunity (PNCO) inviting vendors to propose the software, hardware, and services necessary to implement a new case management system for Indiana’s Appellate Courts.

The primary goals of this project are to:

  • increase productivity of Appellate Court staffs by providing an efficient means of entering data in the system in a manner optimized for the business processes;
  • ensure the quality of Appellate Court case data by eliminating redundant data entry and providing real-time data validation;
  • improve each court administrator’s ability to manage performance with standard business intelligence (BI) tools for reporting and statistical analysis;
  • ensure adequate security across multiple dimensions, including by:
    • chambers
    • panel of judges
    • court or clerk’s office
    • nature of data (public or private);
  • provide access to Appellate Court case information to the general public, other state agencies, and the trial courts;
  • provide to the Appellate Court parties and their counsel the ability to file briefs and motions electronically with the Clerk’s Office and enter relevant case information;
  • provide to trial court clerks, reporters, and staff, and the staffs of various administrative agencies, the ability to file transcripts and other court and administrative records electronically with the Clerk’s Office; and
  • improve the operation of the Appellate Courts and Clerk’s Office through workflow-enabled management of case-related documents.

Eight vendors submitted proposals for consideration: Amicus Group, Aptitude Solutions, CaseLoad Software, L-T Court Tech, New Dawn Technologies, Sustain Technologies, TriVir LLC, and Tyler Technologies.  Two vendors recommend custom-developed software, while six propose the implementation of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) applications.

Among the COTS vendors, Tyler Technologies proposes adding support for appeals to its Odyssey case management system being deployed to the trial courts by JTAC.  As of September 25, Odyssey has been implemented in sixty-two courts throughout Indiana, representing 26% of the State’s annual caseload.
Incorporating appeals into Odyssey is not a trivial concept, due to the differences between the flow of a trial case compared to an appeal and the corresponding system requirements that each case type presents.  However, the idea of using a single system for all courts in Indiana has a certain appeal.

Regardless of whether Indiana becomes the first state to deploy Odyssey in an appellate court or whether a different application is selected, the project team will consider opportunities to simplify the transmission of cases from trial courts to the Clerk of the Appellate Courts.

The project team is forging through the nearly 2,000 pages submitted, to evaluate the merits of each proposal.  In the coming months, the list of vendors will be whittled down, and two or three finalists will be invited to make a Best and Final Offer.  A final decision will be made in the spring of 2011, if sufficient funding is approved by the Indiana General Assembly during the upcoming legislative session.