Living in a digital world means that traditionally legacy-based institutions like banks and courts are finally evolving their operations to keep pace with innovative tech advances across our daily lives. For example, the use of apps like Venmo and technologies like Apple Pay allow everyday consumers to exchange and transfer funds immediately, making the tedious process of writing a check feel outdated. While the court system is inherently different from the banking industry, they share the common need to fundamentally transform their operations and better embrace technology to ensure a more fluid consumer experience. That being said, there is no expectation that courthouses will become home to advanced tech innovations like Face ID check-in or videocall jury duty; however, small changes can be made to make the courthouse more accessible and efficient.
It is simple. Digital technologies help alleviate more pressing issues that courthouses and their patrons face daily. The Courts Advisory Panel pinpointed issues that are challenging courthouses across the country, such as court case information management, facilities management, and people management. These challenges are all trying to tackle an organizational and efficiency problem, but luckily, specific technological solutions are designed to help resolve the plight of filing papers and instead make organization more seamless.
E-filing for Information Management
Digitizing a courthouse does not mean undergoing a hi-tech futuristic renovation. It also does not mean you need an app. Many courts across the United States have started using e-filing systems to store documents on a computer database. Digital documents make it easier to distribute information to judges and other personnel working on cases. Forget about making multiple copies and misplacing important notes; everything is accessible through your own personal computer. Simply scanning and downloading documents to a central database alleviates the commonly felt pain of having to rifle through endless file drawers and the laborious task of physically copying documents.
Despite the notion that software is expensive, e-filing systems are a smart investment and, in fact, quite economical. A study conducted a few years ago in Manatee County, Florida found that courts can save $1 million annually by electronically filing two million documents.1 This is because expenses no longer need to be wasted on paper, document storage, or the manual labor required to file documents.2
Docketing Displays for Information Management
There is a large need for electronic docket systems in state courts nationwide. Shira Scheindlin, a retired U.S. District Court judge said, “Given that state dockets make up 90 percent of all cases, states need to be sure that everything is e-filed and that all filed documents are accessible to all courts, litigants and parties as needed.”3 Digital docketing systems give all parties full, timely access to documents. Docketing systems come in all shapes and sizes and are meant to work best for the needs of specific courthouses. These technologies range from computers that can be logged onto by the public to large displays that automatically update cases and their statuses right in front of patron’s eyes. Docketing systems seamlessly allow the public to access information instantaneously without waiting in long lines or crowding one central area to access a document. Staff members no longer have to update calendars every time information changes, and court goers do not have to worry about an outdated calendar.
Digital Display Systems for People Management and Facilities Management
Monitors and video walls allow court personnel to digitally display notices and signage that inform court goers of important information and directions on how to navigate courthouses. Digital displays are meant to be flexible depending on the needs of the courthouse and can be modified by users every day. On crowded days, display systems can be used to present directory information to help guide visitors through the courthouse. On slower days, displays can be used to show local weather, news, or welcome messages. Digital signs help improve the visitors’ experience by providing them with accessible information on where they need to go and how to get there in a timely manner.
Digital directories can be updated with facility-useful information like which rooms are occupied or available, which bathrooms need cleaning, and which areas are off-limits to visitors. Digitally displaying this information in a universal location allows for all court personnel and court goers to be equally informed.
As industries continue to digitize, courts feel pressure to do the same. Visitors want access to directory information quickly, jurors want to receive a text if they are reporting for jury duty rather than a letter, and court personnel want organized and accessible information. Installing technology into courthouses does not have to occur overnight. Rather, find the most pressing pain point, whether it is access to case information or crowded hallways, and find the best technological solution.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tracy Davis is the President and CEO of TRAX Analytics, LLC, which provides facilities with an analytics platform that monitors, captures, and examines the flow and movement of people and assets in real time. Davis also holds the post of vice president at Infax, Inc. Infax (sister company of TRAX Analytics), is a leading, privately held provider of information technology (IT) solutions to the transportation, judicial, and public-venue markets.
- Calytera,“E-Filing Transformation Makes Courts More Efficient—Cuts Costs, and Improves Convenience,” blog, June 30, 2017.
- Monica Bay, “The Challenges and Opportunities of Court Change Management (Part 1),” Legal Executive Institute, February 8, 2017.