Wednesday, February 13, 2013

E-filing and underinvestment in court IT technology

This morning in a House Appropriations subcommittee, Chief Justice Terrie Livingston of the Second Court of Appeals (Fort Worth) made an interesting point. Civil courts in Texas must adopt electronic filing of court papers between 2014 and 2016, depending on county size. (See the schedule.)

Justice Livingston pointed out that the Texas Legislature appropriated no money at all for computer replacement last biennium. The head of the Office of Court Administration agreed, adding that the Legislature only appropriated $50K for computer repair for the courts in the last biennium. They also slashed the OCA's information technology budget in half.

The combination of failing to invest in information technology while simultaneously shifting toward 100% e-filing in civil cases could create problems next year, suggested Justice Livingston. The OCA has asked for funding to replace 60% of computers used by the appellate courts. But once civil courts shift to e-filing and judges must view all documents electronically, nobody is going to want to view mountains of legal briefs and other such records on old, slow computers.

Ed. note: The original post misidentified the justice who gave this testimony and has been corrected.

8 comments:

doran said...

Grits, I'm willing to bet that the LLB Fiscal Note for the legislation mandating electronic filing reached the conclusion that there would be no fiscal or economic impact of the legislation. Do you know if I would win the bet or not?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I'm don't know off-hand, Doran, but judging from the $0 fiscal notes given to nearly every criminal penalty enhancement, I wouldn't be surprised.

Where's the $$ said...

Isn't "Court I.T. Fund" one of the many Court Costs allowed to be collected under the O.C.A. provision?

If so somebody needs to inquire how that money is being used locally. There should be ample money collected as a court cost to pay for these needs. Unless Counties are using the money for everything but the intended purpose of the money.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

7:33, as I understand it, the issue is not with the counties but the Lege, which "swept" money from many of the the "dedicated" funds last session to certify the budget and draw down federal dollars. So even though the line item says Court IT Fund, the money was not all used for that purpose.

Anonymous said...

One quick correction--the Fourth Court of Appeals is in San Antonio.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Thanks for catching the error, 9:03, I corrected the post. For some reason I'd written down "4th Court" in my notes beside her comments but also "Tarrant" - doublechecking online, it was Justice Livingston of the Second Court. Good catch. Mea culpa.

spiderpickle said...

Very informative blog and interesting post. This may be relevant..
Today I got to my car and found a packet with 2 sheets of paper, one red and one neon green, taped to the drivers side window. The packet informed me of the "2013 Great Texas Warrant Round Up" and informed the owner of the vehicle to act now or be arrested. I got home and looked up the citation number on the packet on the website the paper said to visit. No results. I called 311 and gave them the information and it seems that there were four warrants issued for my husband, for a jan.2012 moving violation ticket and a warrant issued for failure to appear in court feb.2012. When the January ticket was issued he went to jail because he had warrants dating back to a speeding ticket from 2004 which had been paid! 7-8 years with a warrant and not knowing so? that can't be correct. Anyways, he spent a couple of days in jail and he presented proof of payment for the 2004 citation which the dismissed and the judge gave him credit for time served for the jan.2012 ticket and case closed . All of the tickets occurred in Harris county. surcharges paid. His drivers license was renewed in the summer of 2012, his license number was run on three different occasions that I'm aware of: once by a policeman, our insurance company and at the federal building within the last six months. There was also nothing mailed to our home and we've lived in Houston over a decade. Now he has to go back to court and provide every record since 2004. I don't how the record/background system is linked (one database for the county or one for each precinct?) in Harris, so it could just a result of bad bookkeeping and failure to communicate. Perhaps they don't spend money on IT is because they are counting on people not keeping their proof of payment/time served/etc. If the "pool" of non violent offenders is big enough theoretically the job is a lot less dangerous and they still get paid. In any case this is a problem.

Anonymous said...

I agree. I think it's worth it to invest in things like eFile technology to improve efficiency, especially when it comes to the court systems!
-Jon