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Statewide case management system is a third of the way plugged in

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Three years in, and Indiana’s case management system is plugged into about one-third of the state’s courts.

While that progress is facing heightened scrutiny from Indiana lawmakers and some counties aren’t eager to sign on, court officials say 175 courts are waiting to join in and the implementation is moving twice as fast as it has in the past.
 

dePrez-mary-mug DePrez

“I’m very pleased with the progress so far,” said Mary DePrez, a former Shelby County judge who leads the Judicial Technology and Automation Committee effort for the state’s highest court. “There may be some difference of opinions out there, but we’re doing very well. It’s harder than anyone thought it would be, but you really can’t know that until you get started. So I think we’ve been successful to date and have a lot to show for it.”

Though this timeline began when counties began connecting in 2007, some see the system’s start date as 2002. That’s the year the state court first approved the idea of a statewide case management system and contracted with a vendor. But a major hiccup delayed that process.

In 2005, the state and original vendor terminated their contract and the money spent was refunded, primarily because the vendor could only offer a regional system rather than a true statewide system the judiciary envisioned, DePrez said. Since technology and vendor capabilities had improved since the original effort began, the state chose a new vendor in November 2006 – Texas-based Tyler Technologies and its Odyssey system.

After creating and fine-tuning the system specifically for Indiana, the Odyssey system went live in Monroe County and two township courts in Marion County in December 2007.

Since then, each year has brought more counties into the Odyssey fold and 77 courts in 26 counties are currently plugged in. Some of the bigger counties, such as Marion and Allen counties, have connected only some of their courts and others have the entire county caseloads online for the state to see, but nearly one-third of the counties are at least introduced to the system in some capacity.

Last fall, Justice Frank Sullivan, who oversees the project, told a legislative interim committee that Indiana could fully implement the system in all county courts by June 30, 2017, if lawmakers increased a key fee to help pay for it.

If that occurs, the implementation timeline would be slightly less than a decade from the 2007 date when Indiana’s judiciary hired Tyler Technologies, but longer than the original six-year period anticipated back in 2002. The cost would also be less than the $92 million originally expected.

One step at a time

Putting Odyssey in place isn’t as simple as just plugging each county into the network. Each local court system has its own case management system, and there were about 23 being used statewide, along with older versions of the same systems. Learning the varying case management systems and converting the data within those other systems presented unique challenges.

For example, Allen County now has some courts on the statewide case management system, but its previous system was unique to the county.

“We sometimes can’t benefit from what we’ve learned in another county,” DePrez said. “It’s great to be able to leverage what we can sometimes, but we’ve had to start over in many places. That is challenging, and probably has made this more expensive.”

As a result of that scattered effort being condensed into one statewide system, DePrez says what Indiana is doing is unique and can’t really be compared to other states throughout the country. Others that have put this type of system in place, such as New Mexico, only have one or two systems they are replacing with one single system.

“It’s not really fair to compare us to anyone else because of that,” she said. “I’d say we’re in the forefront on where some states are, even today.”

Some lawmakers, particularly Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, have questioned the pace of implementation and how much is being spent on the statewide system. He has described the progress as “stagnant” compared to the millions that have been spent, and said lawmakers need to examine whether that system should be funded at a time when the state has little money to allocate.

Meanwhile, county clerks have expressed frustration over the state’s implementation of this system statewide when they have their own local systems that are functioning fine and they’ve spent county funds to pay for them. Private vendors offering case management systems also criticize the Odyssey pJTACprogress-Mapath, saying it does what their own versions already do and counties can opt to pay for that service if they wish.

A continued effort to increase a court fee used to help pay for JTAC expansion has stalled in recent years, though it’s once again being proposed this year in the form of Senate Bill 301.

As it has in past years, the legislation proposes a temporary $3 increase in the automated record-keeping fee that pays for the JTAC project, changing it from $7 to $10 for the coming years to help expedite the Odyssey deployment statewide.

Court leaders, such as DePrez and Justice Sullivan, say the legislative inaction to increase the fee means that the state can’t more quickly get these counties hooked up to Odyssey.

Justice Sullivan noted that JTAC is working with the Indiana Department of Revenue concerning possible tax refund interception for any unpaid court costs, something similar to what the state agency already does on unpaid child support and license or permit reviews. But aside from that, he discussed how people involved with the Odyssey implementation are contributing economically to the state by using local businesses, and Justice Sullivan says that JTAC is interested in discussing potential revenue-generating ideas with the other branches of government.

In the past two years, one member of the legislative Commission on Courts – former Johnson County Clerk Jill Jackson – has been the only commission member voicing opposition to the JTAC project funding and has voiced concerns that private vendors offering these systems don’t receive state funding and could go out of business because of Odyssey.

DePrez counters criticism about the system and says it’s not only connecting court case systems but also automating other related processes – such as statewide protective order notices in domestic violence cases, e-citations by police, and a database tracking when mentally ill adjudications are made to keep firearms out of those individuals’ hands.

Looking at the overall progress in the past three years, DePrez says the state’s approach has been to first try to take care of those counties that have dying systems and don’t want or can’t afford to replace what they have. Some of those systems are two decades old and aren’t being supported by vendors anymore, and DePrez says that moves them up on the priority list.

Some counties that didn’t even have case management systems and were still using scroll books are now online with Odyssey, she added. DePrez said JTAC is also focusing on counties without budgets to pay for current vendors or services that exist locally at this time.

“The sense of urgency isn’t as strong in some of those areas as the caseloads are, but we’re doing the best we can to prioritize,” she said.

This year, DePrez says Odyssey is expected to be hooked up in five counties and implementation will continue in more of Allen and Marion counties’ courts. In the next two years, at least eight more will be participating, she said.

During his annual State of the Judiciary speech, Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard praised the JTAC efforts and Odyssey implementation as he updated lawmakers on where it stands today.

“The power of this combination is something judges and clerks and law enforcement personnel see close up,” he said, referring to a Fort Wayne bail commissioner who recently used Odyssey to keep a man in custody for an outstanding warrant in Huntington County. “I’m proud that Indiana’s courts are creating a 21st century system.”•

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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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