App puts efficiency on the docket

'We often had incomplete or inaccurate information to take into the courtroom,' inaccurate because it was old.

'Sue Farni, Mobile's Information Services Director

Court administrators in Mobile, Ala., have wrestled for years with a paper document management process that took as long as two days to prepare a court docket for action by a judge.

Sue Farni, the city's information services director, said 'We often had incomplete or inaccurate information to take into the courtroom'sometimes the information was inaccurate because it was old.'

Mobile is now using Brightspire, a browser-based content management application from Filenet Corp. of Costa Mesa, Calif., to manage its documents. The city's IT officials not only expect the system to improve the court's speed and reliability in handling records but also to add functions that previously were not possible.

Court officials preparing dockets have to combine records from the original incidents as well as state and federal databases, such as the FBI's National Crime Information Center, that might hold records of a defendant's previous offenses.

'Now the goal is to be able to take the documents associated with a case, in paper or electronic form, and combine them in one electronic docket,' said Teri Bulger, a database analyst for the city. Judges and court officials will be able to route dockets electronically to various offices that handle a case.

Farni said Mobile's police department had been frustrated by officers' inability to track cases as they pass from municipal courts to higher courts.

'Because of the integration, they will be able to look through the Administrative Office of the Courts in Montgomery, the state capital, that monitors all the courts in the state,' Farni said.
Linking to NCIC via Brightspire also will let police check quickly whether a defendant is wanted for crimes in other states or by the federal government, Farni said.

'We have been wanting to image many of the court documents for quite a while,' Farni said. 'With Brightspire, we will have the ability to update our existing legacy database.'

The application will stow files in a Microsoft SQL Server database and images in an Oracle8i database.

Farni said the application can generate performance measures that will track the flow of documents through the court system.

Summary judgments

The performance measures will let court officials change workflow methods when they identify bottlenecks or determine more efficient ways of handling dockets, Farni said.

Court officials in Mobile plan to implement the Brightspire application by December for about $425,000. Roughly 50 city court employees will use Brightspire at first. 'We plan to expand it once the court is up and running,' Farni said.

Brightspire uses a multilayer architecture with a Web front end. It is written in Java 2 Enterprise Edition as an open client that allows apps to interoperate. The system relies on IBM's Electronic Application Interface to serve as middleware between Mobile's databases and outside data sources, Farni said.

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