CMS Trends & Updates: The Changing Landscape

Gone are the days of simply managing documents…
A case management system (CMS) today is expected to reach across agencies and jurisdictions to connect communication from the beginning of the process with dispatch and police, follow through the courts’ processes—providing improved connections to the public and self-represented—all the way to corrections/community corrections and recidivism concerns.
Software updates that courts are requesting are reshaping the landscape with faster paths to a logical workflow triage, removing impediments for a quicker, decision-based system and, ultimately, justice.
“We’ve recently integrated the Northpointe Software Suite (NSS) with JWorks so courts can quickly access risk and need assessments captured in the COMPAS or other R/N (risk/needs) tools supported within the NSS,” says Sue Humphreys, industry solutions director, CourtView. They can then “utilize that information to better inform decisions, whether gauging pretrial release risks, weighing sentencing decisions, or deciding the most effective interventions.”
The marriage of JWorks and COMPAS not only gives decision-makers a view of critical risk and criminogenic need factors, but allows them to use that data to automatically form intervention plan details and to monitor outcomes so that programs align with what works.
Our goal is to help remove impediments to justice wherever possible, she adds. “We think that a great place to start is by guiding cases down the best path possible for timely resolution and illuminating potential conflicts and obstacles before they impact progress. Since courts aren’t cookie-cutters of one another, we want to provide screen and workflow templates that are adjustable to local practice while enforcing data standards that promote secure, reliable exchanges across agencies with an emphasis on intelligent workflow and on supporting key decision points across a case or person lifecycle.”  
The greatest advancements in JWorks coincide with industry advancements around intelligent case triaging and case management, she says, “determining a case lifecycle based on certain characteristics like number of parties or whether someone is self-represented or a specific offense category—and then automatically triggering events, documents, notifications, etc. for each specific case.” Because it is tagged for multiple users based on task and availability, logjams are more easily avoided and timing and compliance are more easily monitored, she adds.
“Built-in workflow automatically assigns and routes outstanding to-dos and deadlines and lets you notify, escalate, re-route, and re-assign work as needed. This unique capability goes beyond caseflow to include the flow of person/party information and specific activities like calendaring, warrants, investigation, financials, docketing, motion tracking, and documents to name a few.”
Thinking through court process improvements requires looking to both internal court workflows as well as how the court interfaces with external partners, says Jamison Sarno, senior director, Technology Development, Thomson Reuters. Some of the latest C-Track enhancements help courts optimize both internal and external workflow needs.
“Internally, each court has unique requirements and must be able to operate in a manner that is most efficient for them. Our team has created a flexible Configuration Manager, featuring a robust rules engine that allows court IT staff to manage the flow of business processes on-site, directly in the system. The C-Track Configuration Manager gives more ownership of the CMS system to the courts, where they can update or change business processes without having to rely on their maintenance and support team,” he says.
“Externally, the courts partner across the justice ecosystem with law enforcement, public defenders, law firms and several other justice partners,” Sarno furthers. “Data transparency and system integrations with these critical justice partners create a cohesive environment for the secure exchange of near real-time data and information.  With greater integration capability, courts and the judges presiding over cases have more accurate information available regarding the case, case participants and case circumstances.”
“Giving the courts ownership over managing business process updates as they arise is a big focus for our development teams,” says Manoj Jain, Ph.D., vice president, Global Head of Business Development & Sales, Thomson Reuters. “One area where we are improving is offering an expanded configuration capability beyond just the register of actions, to warrants, bonds and payment configuration and triggers. User and system actions can trigger subsequent actions that then automate complex business processes, freeing up staff and streamlining operations. This logic can all be updated from within the system, by someone with the proper access and training.”
With the evolution of technology used across justice partner agencies, courts are finding that integration between systems allows for better communication and information accuracy, Jain furthers. “In order for today’s courts to be effective in administering justice, they need to be integrated with many justice partners.”
Continuing along the same lines, Eric Tumperi, CEO, CorrectTech, lays out a plan for modernizing community corrections systems as they relate to CMS. “With the movement of all but the highest-risk offenders away from prison beds, community corrections programs are receiving more clients and focus and, therefore, higher expectations. There is an international effort to integrate a wide range of programming, interventions, education, and treatment. Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all interventions. Case plans must be specific and individualized, all while demonstrating fidelity to evidence based practices (EBP) and state and federal mandates.”
While there are many exceptional automation systems centered on courts and jail processes, traditional case management systems were not conceptualized with this type of client-centered treatment or EBP implementation and tracking, he says. “Historically, community corrections has been under-utilized and underfunded. A large gap exists between the necessary automation tools and the mission to focus on clients’ individualized needs as they prepare to re-enter the community.”
Evidence Based Practices mandate for better outcomes and thus measurements and common practices is driving agencies toward modernizing their systems, Tumperi contends. “CorrectTech’s advanced features allow its customers to provide comprehensive treatment and education dosages to address the assessed criminogenic needs identified by the risk instrument of choice, provide a holistic view of clients’ needs to help them be successful in their transition using an integrated view of client behavior management, involve multiple parties in the pathway to success for a client—all collaborating through seamless shared information.”
He notes associated agencies increase significantly their ability to integrate operations, increase collaboration, and evaluate programs in real time for ongoing organizational improvement and quality.
David Smith, sales, Journal Technologies, says eCourt was architected from the ground up as a highly configurable business processing engine to be the centerpiece for document management and eFiling solutions to be used by trial and appellate courts, prosecutor and public defender offices, and other governmental agencies, including probation, tribal and state and county governments. ECourt can either be hosted in-house or in the cloud through Amazon Web Services.
“Users only need a web browser to access eCourt and eCourtPublic from desktops, laptops, smartphones—iPhone, Android—and tablet devices—iPad, Galaxy, etc. The system’s graphical user interface, including all screens and dashboards, is natively touch-screen enabled.”
He adds, “Customers also want fewer clicks—they want to access information faster, and they also want the ability to save data to a case more quickly. We have approached this with case and person views that maximize information and alerts, and with widgets that are configurable and extensible. The results can be dramatic: if a user can save 30 data elements to a case with just three clicks, that provides a huge time savings, higher job satisfaction, and better service.”
Others are further aligning across the criminal justice continuum. For example, with the addition of New World Public Safety, Tyler Technologies’ new Tyler Alliance platform can unify and automate sharing of criminal justice information across agencies—dispatch operators, police on patrol, fire departments and emergency services, court clerks, trial judges, prosecutors, corrections staff and probation officers—better than ever before, says Michael Kleiman, director of Marketing, Tyler Technologies Courts & Justice Division.
Also, designed with an insider’s understanding of the courthouse, Odyssey Case Manager increases efficiency and improves the effective administration of justice, he says. “As the heart of the Odyssey software suite, Case Manager is highly configurable and adaptable to evolving with local and legislative requirements.
“Tyler’s evergreen philosophy means we’re always enhancing our products and making those latest technology developments and new product releases available to clients at no cost.
“Courts can manage complete case histories, process documents and handle cash/bond transactions, all the while benefitting from comprehensive security and auditing functions,” Kleiman concludes.
The most recent version of ImageSoft, according to Brad A. Smith, senior justice consultant, includes best-of-breed components for eFiling with TrueFiling and a2j (Access to Justice) for self-represented litigants; eBench as aiSmartBench; EDMS (electronic document management systems) through OnBase; and CMS through JusticeTech.
Smith says the most important trends in CMS technology start with the Cloud, since “modern systems are complex, and the Cloud offers speed, scalability and security that cannot be achieved by most courts that try to build out an on-premise solution.” He adds mobile needs to the list because “citizens and staff are leveraging mobile devices as their primary interface. A modern CMS needs to provide a full-featured mobile experience.” He further emphasizes use of eBench software, “because judges are not clerks and the system must provide an efficient interface for the judge.”
Significantly, Smith adds, “The public needs both high-powered eFiling interfaces for attorneys, and easy-to-use, wizard-like interfaces for self-represented litigants. The self-represented is a growing phenomenon and a2j offers an interface that enables untrained people to file correctly the first time. ImageSoft provides TrueFiling, a popular ECF-conformant solution, which integrates with a2j software for the self-represented.”
He adds a look back and forward: “The Federal Courts PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) began in 1988 and in combination with Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) enabled the legal community to file and update records electronically, without having to physically go to the courthouse. Fast forward to today’s state and local courts, which are now implementing and/or exploring new solutions that fits the needs of their individual jurisdictions. Stakeholders not only have to evaluate what is available today, but have an eye towards the rapidly evolving technology landscape.”
As the CMS landscape expands to include risk/needs tools and the ability to connect to all users including the public on an improved level, the terrain expands to view a new and vast horizon.
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