Courts of the Future are Here

August 23, 2021 by Lily Rexing

Courts of the Future are Here

When unexpected situations arise, it can be difficult to pivot and change old ways. In the case of state and local court systems, there are many moving parts and processes that have been in place for decades or more. Judges, lawyers, litigants, and jurors all have roles in the system, and historically, all come with piles of paperwork. When faced with pandemic-driven remote work and social distancing guidelines, courts accelerated adoption of online processes that are proving to be a better way in any circumstance.

The following 2021 Tyler Excellence Award winners creatively leveraged modern technology solutions to create new, online processes that will continue to benefit all involved.

Indiana Supreme Court

The Indiana Supreme Court’s Office of Judicial Administration needed an e-filing solution that could handle multiple case management systems (CMS) and case types for courts across the state’s 400 lower and three appellate courts. The department worked to implement a solution allowing litigants to e-file for most case and filing types into any trial or appellate court at no cost, regardless of that court’s CMS. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, courts were able to continue their day-to-day activities because the system was in place. Litigants could e-file all pleadings, and court staff could work remotely.

“Although the implementation of a single court case management system was the court’s largest technological undertaking, e-filing had a broader impact to litigants,” said Mary DePrez, executive director of court technology. “There were significant cost savings to litigants, and attorneys embraced it and noted that it was one of the biggest changes and improvements to the legal profession in more than a hundred years.”

The Office of Judicial Administration offered use of the system to litigants and the public at no cost beyond normal filing fees.

Learn more about how statewide e-filing streamlined Indiana’s courts.

Williamson County, Texas

When the coronavirus pandemic took hold, many county departments realized the critical need to set up electronic hearings, electronic signatures, and other paperless processes. The Williamson County, Texas, technology services team worked quickly to ensure county offices could still conduct business as usual while complying with COVID-19 safety guidelines. Staff implemented new business processes including electronic signature capabilities for multiple departments, new workflows for electronically passing along documents for review and signature, an online clerk’s office portal for attorneys to access case documents, and a new jury process that leveraged online tools for jury management.

“The safety restrictions and shift to remote work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic placed a heavy burden on the Williamson County Technology Services Department as we scrambled to not only provide the necessary equipment to all employees, but to review and redesign every business process to accommodate social distancing,” noted DeAnna Saucedo, IT manager. “New applications, innovative business processes, and emerging technology allowed Williamson County to pivot, transform, and continue conducting business as usual.”

The county incorporated new task paths and queues to automate workflows and eliminate inefficiencies. Judges took advantage of the electronic signature functions to annotate or sign documents remotely. County defense attorneys received access to case documents safely at home through the online portal. The new jury process reduced the hours required to manage a jury and adhered to mass gathering restrictions through online empanelment. Additionally, the electronic transfer of service requests between the constable and the clerk’s offices prevented physical contact between employees while saving time and money. Williamson County now reaps the benefits of these improvements that will continue into a post-pandemic landscape.

Read about Williamson County’s new pandemic processes and how they will continue to benefit court partners into the future.

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