New Court Workflow Features E-Signatures

April 16, 2020 by Chris DuPree

Enabling Critical Justice Processes in the Midst of COVID-19

New Court Workflow Features E-Signatures

With COVID-19 bringing everyday life to a halt, working from home became a reality for many people across the country. This included government workers in the justice community – a community that needed to innovate to conduct court business while also adhering to social distancing policies.

One challenge jurisdictions faced immediately was figuring out a way for judges to still be able to sign documents and have them move through the system while judges, attorneys, or court staff – or all three – were working remotely.

Two counties that innovated their judicial processes to overcome this challenge were Nueces County, Texas, and DeKalb County, Georgia. Both saw the critical need to implement a way for judges to securely perform electronic signatures on case documents and transmit them through the case management systems for justice partners to access.

New Workflow

Initially, neither county had an existing process or workflow to facilitate this. Working with their technology partner, however, they both moved from configuration to implementation to training in less than a week. This quick action enabled courts to handle in-person tasks in a virtual capacity.

“We worked to create a workflow path that would allow my staff to present Judicial Orders to the court electronically and then file them with the clerk,” said DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston. “Additionally, the same workflow path allowed the order to be sent to the jail. Within two days, it was in production. It allowed for us to perform essential court functions, not only remotely, but fairly seamlessly.”

For DeKalb County, the new workflow covered multiple offices to enable the flow of orders from the district attorney to the chief judge to the court clerk and then the jail. For Nueces County, the focus was ensuring multiple judges and clerks were able to navigate the new workflow and e-signature process.

“This is certainly a change from what the county courts are used to, but the more they use it, the more they like it,” said Michael Smith, senior systems analyst for Nueces County.

Most of the higher courts in Nueces County embraced the sharp learning curve and were working within this new e-signature workflow almost immediately. “Within the first week, they were already coming up with new ways to send different kinds of documents and send it to different destinations. Many of them now see the possibilities available with e-signatures and this new workflow,” Smith continued.

For DeKalb County, the district attorney’s office and courts have been able to carry on with essential court business during the COVID-19 crisis. “To date, we have handled all essential hearings to include an Unindicted Bond Calendar with more than fifty cases on it and have a similar hearing scheduled for next week with more than sixty cases docketed. “All ten Court Divisions are now using the workflow path to handle all matters before them.” added Boston.

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