Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation to overhaul IT operations and security for the commonwealth’s courts.
The IT systems of the Massachusetts judiciary are getting a long-overdue upgrade.
On Aug. 11, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill to issue up to $165.5 million in municipal bonds to modernize operations and security for the commonwealth’s courts.
While the pandemic forced some upgrades – six of seven court departments now support electronic document filing and delivery – much of the courts’ business is still paper based. Even electronic documents are printed out and added to paper case files, according to a report in Commonwealth Magazine.
The modern, digital judiciary envisioned by the legislation features a justice portal where court users can access and store electronic case information. A content management system would track documents, forms and evidence, and a workflow engine will manage enable real-time docketing. The trial court of the commonwealth and the appellate court would get new case management systems.
Other funded projects include a remote video interpreting system, digital signage and the ability to record and securely store audio recordings of parole board hearings. A supreme judicial court digital reporting system will enable self-publishing for the supreme judicial court and appeals court. Expanded data storage and an energy management system will be added.
Wireless internet access will be available in courthouses for staff and court users, and bandwidth capacity will be increased in all court locations to accommodate a digital court system. Residents of select low-income neighborhoods will get low-cost or free access to online court services.
To upgrade physical security, new video surveillance and security scanning systems will help protect victims and witnesses while in court. Law enforcement communications systems will be centralized, and a digital security system installed to protect court systems, networks and data.
Phones will be switched over to secure voice over internet protocol versions, and a VPN will enable remote employee access to court systems and data.
Besides the hardware and software, the bill makes policy changes that include allowing court seals to be printed electronically, authorizing electronic signatures and considering electronic documents equal to paper documents.
Judiciary officials plan to eventually replace the entire MassCourts information management system, but that would require additional money and not happen until 2028, according to Commonwealth Magazine. Some of the more basic provisions of the bill – like installing Wi-Fi – could occur as soon as 2023.