Lindsey Borschel, Creative Services Manager Office of Communication, Education & Outreach
Technology in Indiana Courts 2000 – 2020
Twenty years ago, when someone would ask how to get information in their case, there would be at least 92 different possible answers, the majority of which did not involve online access. Today, most of Indiana can search a single website for a case and get basic information, a history of events, and even some documents, at no cost.
The Indiana Supreme Court’s technology staff has spent the past two decades building a framework to support efficient case management, data sharing, and public access to court information. In many instances, their work has been in quick response to state or federal law changes, and their efforts have been recognized with various awards for innovation, fairness, and public safety.
Odyssey and e-filing
At the heart of our trial courts’ daily business is the Odyssey case management system. Courts use Odyssey to track cases: events, people, calendars, documents, exhibits. Clerks use it to manage the case records and fees collected. Attorneys and litigants can electronically file cases into Odyssey using one of 14 e-filing tools—including those used by prosecutors and public defenders—and electronically serve any documents they file to other parties.
INcite data sharing
INcite is a secure website where courts, clerks, probation, law enforcement, and other justice-related agencies can access applications, track data, and search for information necessary to their daily work. Data collected through INcite may be shared to other government agencies. For example, when a couple files for a marriage license, they provide their current addresses. These are shared with the Child Support Bureau to aid in the collection of unpaid support.
Indiana courts are committed to giving the public the ability to find case information and other data without charging additional fees for access to records or documents. They also recognize the need to maintain confidentiality, so careful consideration is given to which documents are available online, which are available only at the clerk’s office, and which are not public at all. Public access to court data and online services is available at public.courts.in.gov.
By the year 2000, the Indiana Supreme Court had determined that a statewide case management system was in the best interest of our judicial branch. During the next few years, the Court began building a technology staff in service to this and related projects. Our initial contract for a case management system fell short of expectations and was cancelled, but the foundation laid during these years provided necessary support for the advancements to come. The first INcite application launched, allowing counties to electronically submit driver violations to the Bureau of Motor vehicles. This reduced time between conviction and notice to the BMV to meet federal standards and secure $34 million in highway funding.
- Equipment: Supreme Court provided computer discounts, email, and legal research accounts to Indiana judges.
- Training: Court began to offer computer training around the state for judicial officers and staff.
- Website: Expansion of judicial branch website, including live video of oral arguments.
- Child Support Calculator: Online child support calculator developed for parents to estimate support and complete forms for use in court.
Indiana released one of the nation’s most comprehensive jury pools, including potential jurors pulled from state tax and driver records, instead of registered voters. The list was made available to all Indiana local, state, and federal courts and was recognized with awards from the American Judicature Society and the National Center for State Courts. The Court launched a protection order registry, made mandatory statewide by the Indiana General Assembly. This application—used by courts and victim advocates—created a statewide database of protection orders, with data shared to state and federal law enforcement, making protection orders more effective when victims cross county and state borders. The Odyssey case management system was selected after a competitive review and launched in the first Indiana courts in late 2007. By the end of 2010, Odyssey was used in the trial courts of 20 counties.
- E-Tickets: Court provided e-ticketing service to police, allowing them to capture data more quickly and safely at traffic stops. E-tickets are electronically filed into Odyssey, and many are available for online payment.
- Risk assessment tools: Tools to aid in evaluating offenders’ risk to re-offend were released in INcite for use by probation and corrections.
- Background checks: INcite application for courts to report to the state and FBI when a person has a judgment involving mental health to aid in firearm background checks.
- Marriage licenses: New tool to begin marriage license process online, saving couples time at the clerk’s office.
The Court announced the start of a statewide e-filing project with an aggressive timeline for implementation and the goal of giving filers a variety of services to choose from. By the end of 2015, Odyssey was used by trial courts in more than half the counties in the state, including the largest county, Marion. This marked the milestone that 62% of Indiana’s statewide caseload was in a single case management system.
- Collecting unpaid fees: Tax intercept partnership with executive branch agencies allowed Odyssey courts to begin collecting unpaid court fees from tax refunds.
- Guarding the vulnerable: Adult guardianship registry gave public access to information about protected persons and their court-appointed guardians.
- Interactive statistics: A new site for publishing trial court statistics, allowing the public to view data for the whole state or their local courts.
- Serving attorneys: The Indiana Courts Portal, a secure website for attorneys and mediators to provide information, pay fees, report continuing education, and other online services.
A new paperless process became available for transmitting data about offenders from courts to the Department of Correction. Information from pre-sentence investigation and sentencing are now delivered securely online to DOC. At the end of 2019, e-filing was available in every Indiana trial court and many city and town courts. By the start of 2020, Odyssey was used to manage 87% of the state’s caseload, in the trial courts of 78 counties. Information and some documents in more than 24 million cases was available at mycase.in.gov, which was visited more than 27 million times during 2019.
- Supervised release: System for probation and community corrections to manage defendants released into the community before trial or upon sentence completion.
- Checking on caregivers: Child abuse registry launched allowing public searches of people convicted of offenses against children.
- Text alerts: Courts now send text reminders to defendants about upcoming criminal hearings.
- Protecting our protectors: Feature added to Odyssey to flag parties as veterans based on data from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, so VA services can be offered.
Our courts made huge strides in technology these past twenty years, which helps our justice system keep pace with the people’s expectations. We need to keep that momentum going, which is partly why the Supreme Court created the Indiana Innovation Initiative. This team of dedicated experts will spend the next year generating ideas for future advancement.