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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ind. Courts - Still more on: Judicial Technology Oversight Committee to meet Tuesday

Updating this post from Monday, one of the attendees at Tuesday morning's JTOC meeting, Indianapolis attorney (and former Marion County Assessor) Greg Bowes, took notes and sent them to the ILB. (Additions from other attendees would also be welcome.) From Greg:

I arrived a little late. They were in the middle of defining JTOC’s objective, which appeared to be to decide between one statewide vendor or several “best in class” vendors that counties could choose from. There did not appear to be any decision or consensus, because, later in the meeting, they decided to consider hiring a consultant to give them some financial and technical analysis before they shape the objective, and postponed objectives to future meetings.

We next heard from the Fayette County Clerk, who complained that the Fayette Commissioners forced Odyssey on her without her consent and without consulting her. She said they use CSI, which already has imaging capability, and their data and images are available through DoxPop. She complained that Odyssey’s component to track financial data was inadequate.

The President of the Fayette County Council was allowed to respond, and he challenged the accusation that the Clerk was not consulted. He said he reviewed the Franklin County Clerk’s Office system, which had just recently switched to Odyssey, with a pilot program to incorporate imaging. He said that went well, and that the financial component worked for that county’s Clerk. Because the two Fayette judges supported Odyssey, and for fiscal and other reasons, the Commissioners voted to switch to Odyssey.

A presentation from a consultant for CourtFileNow followed. He is a former Lake County judge, and helped this vendor take Lake County to a system that includes electronic filing since 2010. The vendor makes its money by charging attorneys about $24 at the time of filing an appearance, and the electronic filing is free for the duration of the case. Members of the public have free access to a limited set of information, such as the CCS, but to get more, users must buy a subscription. He agreed that a statewide system should be the ultimate goal, but argued that its implementation may take several more years, and vendors such as his should be able to fill the gap with systems that are ready to go immediately.

Item 6, Discussion with JTAC re: Revenue and Expenses was postponed until the next meeting.

David Pippen then gave a summary of the Practitioner Survey conducted by the Indiana State Bar Association. There were about 900 responses, coming from a wide spectrum of practice types. Over 50% of the respondents were either solo practitioners or from firms with fewer than 10 attorneys. 96% of the attorneys had the capability of creating .pdf documents. 50% were users of the federal court’s PACER system. Respondents overwhelmingly favored instant, 24-hour, online access to court documents and the ability to file electronically. Pippen said the full details from the survey will be posted online, but did not say exactly where.

The committee then discussed future agenda topics. This is where it was suggested that they hire a consultant to explore financial and technological details. Another member voiced that they are still unclear about the committee’s goals or objectives.

They agreed the next meeting should be June 24, 2014, at 1:30 p.m.

I asked Greg: "In your first paragraph, they are talking about vendors for the counties. Vendors for what? Would this be for the CMS, such as Odyssey. Or for electronic filing? Did they stop at 11:30 when I'd heard Massa had to leave?" Greg's response:
I got there late, so I am piecing things together. I think they were talking about both CMS and electronic filing. When they talked about the Franklin County pilot project, I heard it as imaging, but I am not sure it included electronic filing.

Justice Massa had to leave before the rest of the group finished. He did not hear all of the ISBA results, and was not there for the discussion of future agenda topics.

Some of the committee members seemed to be concerned about defining the committee’s mission. As for the consultant, it was only to establish some basic information for the committee to work with, such as what would costs be for various options, including what JTAC has planned, and what the technology requirements would be. When the Fayette Clerk talked, she was not clear as to what server capacity her own system used, and who provided it. I had the impression that CSI paid for the servers and covered that cost by charging all of its licensees from other jurisdictions. The cost to Fayette County (about $25,000 annually) seemed too small to cover all of the server costs.

There are many layers to this problem, and I think the committee is attempting to wrestle with them. What services, such as imaging, electronic filing, and public access, are questions. Who pays, county or state, is a question. What is the funding source, user fees, taxes, filing fees, or subscriptions for access, is another question. Whether there is one vendor in the system, or a network of vendors, creates another question of interoperability. I am concerned that the fight over who pays, and who makes a profit, will push the idea of full and free public access to the background.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 19, 2014 10:08 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts