Fresno Superior Court Automates High-Volume Courtrooms

Location: Merced Superior Court, California
Tyler Client: Since 2015
Employees: 500
Judicial Officers: 53 (49 judges and four commissioners)
Facilities: Six
Population: Approximately 1 million
10th largest jurisdiction in California
Tyler Products Used: Odyssey Case Manager, Odyssey Clerk Edition, Odyssey Judge Edition, Odyssey File & Serve, Odyssey Portal, E-citation interface

Fresno County, located in central California, has a population of nearly 1 million. The county seat is Fresno, the fifth-largest city in California. The Fresno Superior Court (FSC) used two cumbersome, legacy case management systems for different case types. The need to streamline judicial processes and decrease costs prompted the Court to seek a more efficient, proven and single case management system that could handle all case types.

The Challenge

Since July 2006, the Superior Court of California, County of Fresno used the state’s CCMS V2 case management system for criminal and traffic case types, which was maintained by the Judicial Council of California (JCC), and both the Court and the council shared in the cost. Fresno was the only California superior court that used the V2 system, and had no control over the system. The JCC controlled V2 data, releases and changes, resulting in operational inefficiencies and dependence on JCC’s timetables for important tasks, such as interface testing with judicial partners. In addition, FSC contracted with another vendor to maintain a separate case management system for civil, family law, juvenile and probate case types. While the V2 platform was a fairly modern database system, the other case management platform was archaic, similar to using a typewriter. Since the Fresno Superior Court was committed to serving its community and improving the administration of justice, the Court sought a single, comprehensive court management system for all case types, as well as a full data conversion into one system. An integrated solution became necessary to unify case management and streamline court processes.

Fresno Superior Court selected the Odyssey® solution, including case management, public access, enterprise document management, financial management, e-filing and e-citations. Additionally, the Court chose Odyssey Judge Edition to provide judges with digital case data on the bench, as well as Odyssey Clerk Edition to improve courtroom efficiency and automate courtroom tasks.

While we wholeheartedly liked the Odyssey product, it was the return on investment that sold us. Not only will the system pay for itself in a matter of a few years, we realized cost savings in the second year and sustained savings throughout the life of the system.

Judge Gary Hoff

Fresno Superior Court, California

The Implementation – Nine Months Ahead of Schedule

The opportunity to save money and improve efficiencies by having a single, integrated case management system motivated the Court to present to the Judicial Technology Committee (JCTC) a business case to replace both systems. After thorough review, the JCTC agreed that FSC demonstrated an immediate need to replace the two legacy systems and made the recommendation to the Judicial Council of California, which ultimately approved. A 27-month implementation schedule was set; however, since the implementation processes were similar for all case types, the Court accelerated the go-live date to April 2015 — an 18-month implementation — nine months ahead of schedule. This allowed them to also move their e-filing implementation up by nine months and complete it that same year.

With the decision to go-live with all case types at the same time, Fresno Superior Court realized a cost savings of more than $9,000,000 over a five-year period, resulting from the elimination of the V2 system maintenance and support costs in which the Judicial Council funded $3 million per year and FSC funded $500,000 per year. More importantly, the return on investment was realized in 24 months rather than 28 months.

The Odyssey Solution

The Court’s Odyssey team took advantage of Odyssey’s robust features and worked closely with Tyler to fully implement Odyssey capabilities, such as workflow queues. They ensured the capabilities were fully functioning and integrated with the Court’s needs, so that work was more efficiently processed and workload was more easily monitored. This allowed the FSC to perform at the top of their game with improved access and enhanced service for judges, court staff, justice partners and the public. Odyssey was completely integrated with the Court’s business processes, giving them total local control of data and removing control from the state and county. Regaining control improved efficiency, effectiveness and productivity, and provided the ability to modernize what was important to FSC.

The implementation of Odyssey brought FSC and its justice partners considerable business value. We were committed to success, and our strong partnership with Tyler’s project team as well as a strong work ethic helped us achieve a truly successful launch. It was ontime and under budget and replaced not one, but two case management systems.

Patty Wallace Rixman

Assistant Court Executive Officer - Fresno Superior Court, California

Flexible Workflow Queues Provide Automation

Odyssey’s customizable workflow queues are generating greater efficiency because the workload is more easily monitored and accessed by multiple employees. As court staff process transactions in Odyssey’s workflow queues, items are moved through the entire workflow path until they are fully processed. One example of where this benefits the Court is with automation that allows settlement conference statements to be processed efficiently so that litigants have their matters addressed by the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) office in a timely manner. The moment an electronic filing is accepted that involves a settlement conference statement, the filing is automatically uploaded into Odyssey through the integration translation bridge with the appropriate document security group assigned.

In reviewing the case, court staff can digitally route the electronically filed document to the settlement conference statement workflow queue to be reviewed by ADR staff. Before workflow queues, the process was extremely manual. Staff received paper filings that would have to be routed to the ADR office via interoffice mail — often slowing down the process and causing delays. By utilizing workflow queues, the Court now has the added flexibility to instantly assign documents to be processed the moment the electronic filing is accepted.

E-filing Evolved the Office to Paperless

The Fresno Superior Court went live on Tyler’s e-filing solution, Odyssey File & Serve, in August 2015. They went mandatory with e-filing in July 2016 for civil unlimited cases, and remaining civil case categories, probate and family cases become mandatory in July 2017. E-filing provided the ability to better manage electronic documents and evolve to more paperless processes. Scanners were placed around the office, so anything could be scanned and added to cases. This helped the staff acclimate to digital case files and encouraged interaction with the new Odyssey system. In civil cases, documents can have up to 1,000 pages in one filing. Attorneys used to present lengthy, printed books for clerks to deconstruct and photocopy — an enormous, manual task. With e-filing, the filings are waiting in electronic queues, rather than staff handling volumes of paper. Since e-filing was such a significant change, Fresno met with the local bar association prior to going mandatory and a group of local attorneys participated in an e-filing pilot, resulting in reduced filing times and eliminated trips to the courthouse.

E-filing not only made the Court and private attorneys more efficient, it also helped justice partners. For example, the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS), a state organization for child advocacy, files cases for individuals. Before e-filing, the department came to the Court with large stacks of case files — now 50 cases per day are filed electronically.

Odyssey Clerk Edition Automated High-Volume Courtrooms

FSC was one of the first courts in California to configure and use Odyssey Clerk Edition for capturing court minutes. They began using Clerk Edition in their high-volume courts through a pilot project, beginning in November 2015. The project began with two domestic violence courtrooms and expanded to their felony and misdemeanor courts at a rate of two departments every three to four weeks, until being fully live in early March 2016 in all criminal and traffic courtrooms.

In their high-volume courtrooms, FSC started with a model of two data entry staff per department — one located inside of the courtroom and the other located in a back office. Data entry is separate from the assigned courtroom clerk who is responsible for notating the orders the judge is making on each case through a worksheet document. Clerks then provide the worksheet to the data entry staff who then enter the orders into Clerk Edition. As data entry staff became more fluent in Clerk Edition, their speed and efficiency increased. Several departments now operate with just a courtroom clerk and a single data entry person (depending on the size of the daily calendar), which is a highly efficient, commonplace practice in a fast-paced, high-volume courtroom.

The automatic uploading of minute orders from Clerk Edition directly to Odyssey enabled justice partners, such as the Sheriff, Probation, District Attorney and Public Defender, to immediately access and review minute orders through the Odyssey Portal. Odyssey Clerk Edition also identified errors or discrepancies in court orders before creating the minute order, which reduced the number of corrected minute orders needed. Additionally, it helped expedite minute order printing for defendants in the ACTION Center. After a defendant receives their sentence in the courtroom, including programs they must complete as part of their sentence, they arrive at the ACTION Center to sign up for the programs. The minute order is ready immediately for ACTION Center staff to access and help the defendant, resulting in improved efficiency for all involved. One of the greatest benefits is that the defendant now completes their business on their court date, eliminating the need to return to the Court or go to several other locations to sign up for programs.

Fresno Superior Court’s judges are very particular about how the Register of Actions (ROA) look and that the ROA reads like a story. FSC judges really liked the formatting Clerk Edition generates because it is visually pleasing and easy for them to view. The judges who use Judge Edition consider it a valuable tool to have on the bench, allowing them to easily and quickly locate case information.

E-Citation Solution Saves Time

With heavy traffic flows through the I-5 corridor and throughout the city of Fresno, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and the Fresno Police Department issue a huge volume of citations. After implementing an Odyssey interface to e-Citations software, the California Highway Patrol now easily issues e-citations along the I-5, which are uploaded automatically to Odyssey. This interface has transformed the business operations of the Court, helping them realize time and cost savings. Previously, it took two minutes to enter each citation, and with an annual volume of 50,000 citations each from the CHP and Fresno Police Department (city of Fresno), the efficiencies resulting from going paperless are remarkable. In addition, FSC was the first court in California to interface with GC Collections, an agency used by many California courts. Collections are extremely important to FSC, and the interface allows the Court to automatically update delinquent cases with the correct event type, collection status and civil assessment fee. The system then adds the corresponding initial referral, recall, party update and close action on each case in the database. Odyssey then uploads a text file over a secure connection (via FTPS) directly to the collection agency, resulting in increased efficiency in uploading accurate data to the collection vendor.

Robust and Accurate Reporting with Low Error Rate

Using Odyssey, Fresno Superior Court achieved greater flexibility in running reports allowing them to modify and ultimately, mine data. The Courts’s old CMS V2 system did not accurately report errors to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Without a mechanism in place to identify if a report error had been corrected after original submission, it continually resubmitted reports with old errors. This repetitive resubmission inflated total error rates to 80 percent, far above the acceptable level, and since the system was busy sending resubmissions, it also caused delays in processing error-free reports. Using Odyssey, the errors are corrected and submitted successfully, and they are automatically removed from the error report sent to the DMV. The Court’s error rate reached well below the required rate of 10 percent. In addition to this being a morale boost for staff as they regularly received glowing, congratulatory emails from the DMV, this saved time and increased reporting accuracy by reducing the error rate.

The Court continues to create efficient interfaces for their justice partners, such as Probation, where they are close to finalizing an interface that processes probation reports electronically. Odyssey enables probation officers to upload minute orders directly to the court via a secure electronic filing server. Judges now have access to the report prior to the day of the hearing, and they have the option of printing the report, reviewing the document remotely, making notes and signing them, all electronically. Clerks scan and upload reports straight into Odyssey, and justice partners have instant access to the signed report.

A Leader Among Courts

Fresno Superior Court was one of the largest implementations in California to go live on Odyssey in all case types. Their experience proved they are a leader among courts, a model of a well-executed technology implementation and efficient, paperless operations. Fresno has a lot to be proud of — they achieved their primary objectives of improved services and access for justice partners, judges and the public, as well as regained local control and unburdened the state. Other California courts have since reached out to them for guidance, and organized site visits, so that the courts could not only touch and feel Odyssey, but share their learnings about business processes. Fresno has deconstructed their processes and shared them with other courts and they are rapidly becoming a model for efficiency.

With a focus on maximizing their technology platform, they created a dedicated case management department, also known as the Odyssey Think Tank. This all-inclusive service provider gives support to every entity that touches Odyssey — staff, judges, management, justice partners, community agencies and the public. This dedicated group, comprised of subject matter experts from various departments, helped make troubleshooting, new releases and patches work more efficiently and effectively by reducing down time to a minimum. Together, they work to improve services as well as drive continuous improvement — today and tomorrow.

Case Study Highlights

  • Implemented Odyssey case management system for all case types nine months ahead of schedule and under budget
  • Realized a cost savings of more than $9,000,000 over a five-year period, resulting from the elimination of V2 system maintenance and support costs
  • Gained total local control of data, improving efficiency and productivity

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