April 12, 2010 By Andy Opsahl
Local court systems across the country have been digitizing legal filings for the past few years to reduce paper management cut costs. Typically, however, each court deploys its own electronic document system, and it often doesn't connect to the systems of the other courts in the state.
Things will work differently in Arizona when the Arizona Supreme Court (ASC) connects all the state's ctourt document systems. The forthcoming system will let a citizen who's filing a document at any courthouse to retrieve all relevant case material from other courts in the same transaction.
The project required all county courthouses to host electronic documents with sufficient redundancy in case of a disaster. That was something only two counties in the state could do, according to Karl Heckart, CIO of the ASC. Fortunately those two counties -- Maricopa County and Pima County -- represented most of the state's population and held the majority of Arizona's local tax revenue. That meant they could afford robust backup systems, while the other counties could not afford such technology.
Using software called OnBase 9.2 from Hyland Software, the ASC is creating a central data repository for hosting court documents for the smaller counties. Simultaneously the software will let Maricopa County and Pima County continue hosting their own documents and route end-users from other courts to those documents. Keeping Maricopa and Pima counties' court documents hosted locally will save the ASC a lot of money, Heckart explained.
"Maricopa County itself accounts for 60 percent of the court filings. That's 60 percent of the documents I don't have to transfer and store at a central repository," Heckart said.
The project cost $2 million, which the ASC expects to recover from the fees citizens pay for using the system. Heckart said getting the various local document management systems to interface with OnBase 9.2 was easy because all of those individual systems were made by Hyland.
Heckart said that at a time when Arizona agencies have laid off staff in droves, the system will enable all of the state's courts to manage documents with fewer employees.