Case Study: How the Ohio Court of Claims Handled Increased Caseload
Client since 2016
Located in Columbus, Ohio
Serves the entire state of Ohio, which has a population of approximately 12 million
Odyssey Solutions: Odyssey Case Manager™, Odyssey File & Serve™, Odyssey Guide & File™, Modria®
Preparing for New Case Types and Increased Caseloads While Improving Access to Justice for Ohio’s Citizens
The Ohio Court of Claims, located in the state’s capital city of Columbus, hears claims against the state for money damages, appeals from the Attorney General regarding claims filed under the Victims of Crime Compensation Program, and claims alleging denial of access to public records by any public office in Ohio. The state, in these cases, includes the General Assembly, Supreme Court, offices of all elected state officers (governor, attorney general, auditor of the state, secretary of state, and treasurer of state), all state departments, boards, offices, commissions, agencies, institutions, and state colleges and universities.
The Ohio Court of Claims also handles public records claims cases to resolve disputes between citizens and the government regarding access to public records. These cases are first referred to mediation, then if necessary, proceed to a decision by the court. All cases filed in the Ohio Court of Claims are civil matters; there is no criminal docket. Most civil actions filed in the Court of Claims are classified as either judicial determination (JD) or administrative determination (AD) cases.
Since the mid-1990s, the Ohio Court of Claims used a case management system that was developed and customized to meet the court’s unique needs. The only major update that this custom system underwent occurred in 1999 in anticipation of the Y2K bug. For nearly 20 years, this legacy system was able to handle the volume of cases that the court needed to manage, and the data needs to satisfy reporting requirements for state officials.
In September of 2016, the Ohio state legislature passed a measure that gave the court of claims statewide jurisdiction over public records requests. With this new case type now falling under its umbrella of responsibility, the court realized it needed to prepare for an exponential increase in the number of cases it would have to process. Since there is only one physical court location in Columbus, it also meant the court needed to implement e-filing to make it easier for citizens to file a case from any of the 88 counties in the state, instead of mailing documents or having to appear in person. The court felt it needed a different system to ensure it could handle the increased case volume to come and provide the access to justice the state’s citizens deserved.
Initially, the state supreme court, which has some oversight over the Ohio Court of Claims, worked with the Clerk of Courts to conduct an audit of the existing Ohio Court of Claims case management system. The court reviewed the system and its ability to handle the increased volume and enhanced capabilities needed to implement more robust case management and e-filing capabilities in the court. Concerns were raised that the legacy system was developed by a sole vendor that was based overseas, and that costs and timing issues wouldn’t be suitable for the court’s needs. Its goal was to have a flexible, more capable system implemented by a stable, well-established company that had experience dealing with e-filing.
The Ohio Court of Claims turned to Tyler Technologies to replace its legacy in-house system, selecting the Odyssey® solution – including Odyssey Case Manager™, Odyssey File & Serve™, Odyssey Guide & File™, and Modria® – to streamline court processes, improve efficiency, provide reporting, and increase access to justice to citizens who want to file claims, including public records requests cases, against the state.
The Solution - Custom Feel Without the Custom Price
System evaluators from the court and state felt it was important to move to a more modern software to help establish a more modern court. They also felt the old system couldn’t handle, or be modified to handle, the advanced filing and reporting functionality the court would need to handle the anticipated increase in case volume with the addition of the new public records request case type.
After meeting with and evaluating offerings from four different solutions providers, the Ohio Court of Claims selected Tyler Technologies to handle the its case management, e-filing, and mediation/dispute resolution. Cost was a factor, but it wasn’t the only factor in the decision to select Tyler Technologies, as Odyssey was moderately priced compared to other vendors up for consideration. Odyssey was selected because the Ohio Court of Claims felt it was a good out of the box solution that was easily configurable to suit the court’s needs, especially when it came to data gathering and analytics capabilities. With Odyssey’s “custom feel,” the Ohio Court of Claims was able to work with the Tyler implementation team to develop a userfriendly system that would create efficiencies and help streamline processes for the court.
I felt a connection with everyone on the Tyler team. I liked the fact that both our salesperson and trainer were attorneys. It’s nice knowing that they not only understand Tyler and the technology, but they understand what courts do and what their needs are.
Director of Operations
The court also felt more comfortable with Tyler’s personnel and knowledge of court processes. With Tyler’s extensive experience in the e-filing space, the Ohio Court of Claims was confident that they could come in and set it up for success from the start. Former attorneys and former public sector officials were part of the Tyler sales and training team, which further solidified client confidence that Tyler had the industry knowledge needed to understand the nuances of court proceedings and case filing procedures.
The Ohio Court of Claims signed Tyler Technologies to be its solutions provider in June of 2016, just in time to help configure the system to handle e-filing capability. Since e-filing was a priority, the Ohio Court of Claims went live with Odyssey File & Serve first in January 2017. Implemented in just a couple of weeks, File & Serve was its own standalone system for nearly a year, working in tandem with the legacy system that would soon be phased out in preparation for Odyssey Case Manager.
File & Serve was also integrated with Odyssey Guide & File, which enabled the court to develop its own interview process and electronic forms to guide self-represented litigants (SRL) through generating and completing court forms and filing cases online. New processes gave citizens the ability to use Guide & File to e-file for simple cases and small claims cases where no attorney was needed. Initially, Guide & File was rolled out for two civil case types. Adoption was slow at first, with only three SRL cases filed in 2017, but the number of SRL filings increased by 1,300 percent in 2018.
The Ohio Court of Claims also signed on to go live with Modria® Online Dispute Resolution (ODR). Providing ODR was part of the court’s vision of giving citizens 24/7 access to justice through online mediation of the growing number public records cases. The goal, ultimately, is to handle these public records cases through ODR as the number of incoming cases is expected to increase in the years to come.
Dealing with an Extra Busy Pothole Season
As with most states that have cold weather, Ohio deals with harsh winters that lead to frozen roads. The arrival of spring and warm weather is a welcome relief to everyone and everything in the state except for the roads. When those streets thaw out, they can crack and expand, leading to a large number of potholes all over the state. This period of time is considered “pothole season,” and it’s when the Ohio Court of Claims expects an increase in the number of pothole claims against the state.
The majority of those cases were Administrative Determination (AD) cases – any case seeking less than $10,000 in claim resolution – where no judge, attorney, or hearing was necessary.
2018 was a particularly harsh winter, with more potholes than usual leading to more vehicle damage than usual. When state agencies, other government entities, and civilians have vehicle damage caused by potholes, they can file a claim with the court of claims for vehicle damages. Awareness of this fact grew for citizens thanks to local TV reports that covered the high number of potholes across the state, specifically pointing out the fact that citizens can file a claim with the Ohio Court of Claims for vehicle damages. With the small claim amount normally associated with pothole cases, they fell in the AD category for the court of claims to process.
In previous years, the Ohio Court of Claims would have to shift staff to assist with case volume increases during pothole season, draining resources from other areas of court processes. With Odyssey in place to streamline operations, no additional staff was needed to assist with the increased volume of claims, even during an unusually high pothole season in 2018. The court was able to manage the 201.6 percent increase in caseload without falling behind and incurring a backlog.
Building Today with an Eye Towards a Streamlined Future
Additional case types brought on by new state legislation and the need for more robust features were the catalysts that sparked the overhaul of a system that officials felt wouldn’t be able to handle what was on the horizon.
What drove us to Odyssey is the fact that we needed a more capable system and a system that had flexibility, including the e-filing capability that it had now and what it would be able to do in the future. We also felt good about the fact that Tyler is a well-established company that’s going to be there for us now and in the future.
Anderson M. Renick
Clerk of the Court
With the implementation of Odyssey and the advancement of e-filing, the Ohio Court of Claims created the streamlined, modern court processes it had envisioned when it wanted to improve access to justice for Ohio’s citizens. The Court of Claims successfully handled adding a new case type and dealing with an increased caseload while providing an easier way for citizens to file that doesn’t involve excessively long drives to the court’s one and only physical location.
Once the new system was in place, the Ohio Court of Claims was able to handle an overall caseload increase of more than 50 percent while maintaining – not increasing or shifting – staffing and reducing backlogs to keep the justice process as efficient as possible, especially for the high-volume AD cases.
Adoption of Modria and its full implementation are part of a further streamlined future for the court as online mediation will provide 24/7 access to justice to help the Ohio Court of Claims resolve the higher volume of public records cases it’s expecting in the near future. The court also has its eye on Tyler’s Socrata® solution to provide data that will help it achieve better decision making and further improve processes for its staff and the citizens it serves.