Courts Go Cloud-First To Put Customers First
December 01, 2022 by Marissa Harrison
In the city of Shreveport, Louisiana, and Okaloosa County, Florida, court technology leaders take their roles as public servants literally — whether it’s serving constituents, defendants, attorneys, or other justice partners. But both courts recognize that to effectively serve the public, they must first serve their internal customers: court staff.
Read on to learn how these courts are using cloud-based solutions to overcome obstacles for a better customer experience across their justice systems.
Empowering Court Staff
When Okaloosa goes live with its new case management software this year, it will be the first Florida county leveraging cloud-native court applications. “We try to give [IT] the tools to allow staff to provide a better customer experience,” says John Anderson, chief deputy of operations for Okaloosa County Clerk of Court in Florida. “[The cloud] is just another tool to allow them to provide better service to our employees so we can serve the public … that’s who we’re called to serve.”
Brandon McEachern, IT director for Shreveport City Court in Shreveport, Louisiana, encouraged his court to transition to cloud-based software in 2021. With a high volume of low-complexity cases paired with a large number of self-represented litigants, Shreveport needed a case management system that automated as many steps as possible to accelerate and simplify resolution.
“We need to have everything as user-friendly as possible for public access,” says McEachern. While he faced initial apprehension from peers about cloud migration, McEachern adds that as a public servant, “it’s almost your duty to push the court forward.”
Finding Security in Numbers
The increase of cybercrime without an accompanying budget increase for added data security was another key driver for cloud migration in both court systems.
In Okaloosa, the threat of hurricanes made the need for secure data storage even more urgent. “We have about six to eight IT staff — that's not enough staff to keep data safe. That's the worst thing that can happen to you politically, to your constituents, when I can no longer serve the public. So that became a real driving factor for us and that's when we started looking for solutions that were based in the cloud,” explains Anderson.
McEachern adds, “We could not afford to employ [additional] people. But together, we can [increase security]. And I think that's one of the major benefits of having a cloud solution is we can piggyback off each other and get these features, the security that we couldn't get by ourselves.”
Prioritizing Efficient, Transparent Justice
For Shreveport, the need for integrated solutions to replace its siloed homegrown modules gave them an additional reason to partner with a cloud-first software vendor. “The system works better when we can all work together. The way that we can work together is through the integrations,” says McEachern.
And, when court staff and justice agencies work together more efficiently, those efficiencies are passed along to the public. For example, by integrating the technology Shreveport’s court clerks use to capture minutes into the city’s case management solution, court clerks can now access and enter data from the courtroom in real time, eliminating duplicate data entry, and in turn, provide immediate transparency of case information to the public.
While Okaloosa is yet to go live with the new cloud-based system, Anderson is looking forward to the expanded, connected data he’ll be able to gather and share to increase transparency. “We collect a lot of data and [the cloud solution] provides that capability for us to collect data. It gives us a whole new set of data points to provide what we can for the citizens of Okaloosa County,” says Anderson.
Pushing Past Apprehension
Anderson and McEachern acknowledge the initial discomfort courts may feel moving to cloud-based tech, but stress that the feeling is short-lived, outweighed by the benefits of a more accessible, user-friendly justice system — an expectation accelerated by the pandemic.
“Yes, there's going to be some growing pains there,” remarks McEachern. “But the end result is the public's going to have more access to the criminal justice system, and that's ultimately what we're here for is to provide better services for the public.”
When the public interacts with the court, “it's either the worst day of their life or the best day of their life,” concludes Anderson. And it’s his goal to leverage technology to ensure the court can “celebrate with them or to help them the best that we can,” through every interaction.