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eFiling and Workflow: Easing Clerk Life in Arlington County, VA

Arlington County Circuit Court’s situation was like many other courts – paper case files, no eFiling portal, and they were using a statewide case management system. Not only did they need a proper solution, but they needed an integrator to tie everything together and create true efficiency.

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Paul Ferguson:

Thanks to all of you that have joined us, especially the Virginia court. Shenandoah, Charlottesville, Prince William, Henrico, Alexandria and of course my personal favorite, the staff in Virginia Beach. We've got people from really all over the country. Thank you for taking the time to listen to how the system works for us here in Arlington.

I would say that the biggest plus of this system is the workflow. We have categories setup in place so that once the document is filed, it's scanned in and it's coded and it goes to the right place internally in our office and into the judge's chambers. So Christina Dietrich is going to give you the specifics about how it works, but we have had buy in from each of our three circuit court judges. They don't have any paper in the courtroom. When we have substitutes, of course we do have to print out things for them most of the time. But if you were to talk to our judges, there was some initial resistance. There was some bumps in the road, I would say the first month or so but ultimately, I think it's been a big time saver for them.

As far as quantifying the dollars, we really haven't had a reduction in staff. I don't feel like it's resulted in us being able to cut staff, but what I do remember is when we had regular paper files, things were just kind of a mess. Things were going wrong all the time and things seem to be working fairly smoothly now.

So, I'll turn it over to Christina where she can go through the details of how this system works for us.

Christina Dietrich:

Good afternoon. I will mirror Paul's appreciation for having you all participate. I'm excited for this opportunity to talk to you about our experience with migrating from a fully paper based court to a paperless solution.

My background is that I've been working at the circuit court for five years. My responsibilities entail managing, enhancing, troubleshooting our various information systems for our land records department, our court records department, and our probate solutions. My experience with all these different solutions has helped frame and shape my perspective on our court records paperless rollout. I have seen different solutions that are implemented different ways and I have to say that the court records solution is my favorite. We really have a lot more flexibility that I'll go into explaining more with that solution and I feel that it gives us the greatest benefits of any of the electronic solutions we have deployed to date.

So, let me tell you a little bit about Arlington County. We are an urban jurisdiction. We have roughly 220,000 residents and we're located right outside of Washington DC. One of the interesting parts of Arlington is we have a lot of folks that live here and commute to the communities around us, whether that's Fairfax or Loudoun or Washington DC for work. We also have people from all those jurisdictions that are coming into Arlington County, so we have a lot of dense population throughout the workday and also after hours.

Our circuit court handles both Arlington County and our adjacent jurisdiction, the City of Falls Church. The City of Falls Church is relatively small so they've contracted with us to have us handle the circuit court responsibilities. For those of you that aren't familiar with the circuit courts in Virginia, the circuit court handles monetary claims that are over $25,000, criminal cases that are felonies and appeals from our general district court and juvenile and domestic relations court. We've handled over 7,000 civil and criminal cases were initiated in the fiscal year 2017. During that same period of time, we processed over 90,000 documents.

So, how did we get to this decision to automate? In 2008, our current clerk Paul Ferguson was elected to office. Prior to Paul holding this office, the previous clerk had been in office for over 30 years. When Paul came on board, he decided that this was an opportunity to innovate and modernize some of the processes and some of the things that were going on. The situation that he walked into was where all of our court records were in paper files.

As he alluded to in the introduction, is finding those documents and managing those case files was really time consuming. We had one of our clerks who talked about at one point in time, she was spending roughly 11 hours a week, and this was a supervisor, 11 hours a week looking for files and documents. She was our best hunter. She would be able to go to different people's offices. She'd be looking in different file locations, in different bins to find those elusive things that were on the docket that week and somehow we weren't able to put our hands on easily.

Then, we had the other issue that only one user could look at a document or a case file at a given time. If the judge had it upstairs in chambers as they were prepping for court and the attorney showed up at our front counter and they wanted to see the latest motion, there was really no way to share that with them. That was one piece of paper and whoever had it at that moment in time was the only person that could access it.

We also had the issue that there was really no way to verify was a document really filed. Could we have filed it but it got lost? Or maybe it actually wasn't filed with us and that's why we couldn't find it. There was really no great way to verify that we weren't on a wild goose chase, looking for something that wasn't actually filed with our office.

There was no way to organize our documents and prioritize processing. The clerks were given a stack of documents and they worked through the documents, from the first one on top of the stack through to the bottom. It didn't matter if there was an emergency motion that maybe was located halfway down the stack and that needed to be looked at right away. There was no way to make that a top priority.

And last but not least, we had no backup for emergency situations. This was actually really relevant to our office because in 1990, the clerk's office was actually the site of a fire. It broke out in the clerk's office and cause $2.5 million worth of damages. Many of our case files were destroyed, but fortunately the record books were not damaged so we had the outcomes of all the cases were still available. But, it was definitely a scary situation and a wake up call that this is a real risk that we have when we rely on paper.

The other thing that we had going on at that time is that we would use the State of Virginia's information management system, case management system called CCMS. CCMS is used by the majority of the circuit courts in Virginia. It gathers general case information. There's a way to keep a record of what pleadings and orders are filed and it displays hearing information. It is accessible to the public, but it's just basic information about what's happening. There's no ability to look at the images or do anything along those lines.

So, what did we do to start addressing some of those issues? The first step was that we started scanning documents in parallel with maintaining the paper records. Alluding back to what Brad mentioned, is we would still continue to do everything in paper, but we did take the time to scan everything in. This gave us an emergency backup in case there were any problems, another fire, anything along those lines, we would have a backup of our information. It also made it easier for us to make copies. As I talked about before when we were all paper, if the judges had a file and an attorney or a defendant came and they wanted to see a copy of something that was going on, we couldn't share it with them. Well, by doing the scanning in parallel with using paper, we had an easier time to make copies on demand.

However, the situation was quite inefficient because the clerks were managing two case files. They had to keep them both up to date. Unfortunately in our case, what often suffered was the electronic version as it was being scanned in but there wasn't a whole lot of verification going on that the document were being indexed and stored correctly. That sometimes caused some issues. We hoped we would have it, but we couldn't always find it because the indexing information wasn't accurate.

While that was going on, it gave us this backup but it wasn't perfect. Our office began to investigate some electronic options. One of the things that we did that was very important from the beginning was we incorporated our efforts with judge's chambers and with our county technology staff. We needed to prioritize the needs of our various users, whether it's in the clerk's office or in chambers, but also make sure our solution integrated with the county's plans and the technology that they were able to support. We visited various courts to see what they were implementing and we looked into a lot of vendor presentations to decide what's was available on the market and what would fit our needs.

We were very aware of our need to convert from paper based to an electronic solution, but one of the challenges is that we had to justify that transition. There is a cost associated with that and we couldn't just say, "Hey, we want to do this." And suddenly have the money be given to us by the county. So in order to determine the best path forward and to justify this transition, we worked with the National Center for State Courts to develop a study to outline our various options and the costs of the different solutions, as well as the benefits that we would be realizing.

As an outcome, we decided that the best solution for us in Arlington was a custom off the shelf solution that integrated with [OnBase 00:10:00]. The reason for that is our county uses OnBase extensively. This was what allowed our solution to integrate and be supported by our existing county IT staff. That was a very important requirement from their perspective.

Given the feedback we got from the study from the National Center for State Courts and our need to have an OnBase based solution, we were able to develop a sole source procurement package with our county and that led us to choose ImageSoft solution because it was the best one for our needs. Our county was generous and was able to allocate us one time funds from their general budget to implement this solution.

So, what did we do to start things off? We began with the understanding that our solution was always going to be a two faceted solution. We're going to use OnBase for our image storage and for our workflow. Our processing steps were going to be based on OnBase, but we were going to continue to use CCMS for our case management. That was very important since it tracks our metrics, it makes it easy to see displays within the courthouse of what cases are being heard where and when, and it was actually something that was familiar to many of our users so we wanted to keep that. ImageSoft was able to develop a custom solution that integrated both OnBase and CCMS into our solution.

We started off with a hybrid initial implementation. It was paper and it was electronic. We decided that we were going to convert the entire back office to an OnBase electronic solution. Whenever we were receiving new filings, they were scanned immediately. Actually, what would happen is they would get barcoded and they would get scanned, quality checked and then they would be routed to the clerks for processing electronically. There was no need for the clerks to have paper passed around anymore. All of our existing paper files were frozen. We were not adding new documentation, new files, new pleadings to those. We still might have to use them because we weren't doing back scanning on all of our old case files, but we were not adding any new documents to them.

However, the hybrid part was that we were still only accepting fillings in paper. We did not implement any filing solution in stage one. Everything still was filed and person or by mail in paper and then we would scan it and add it to the system.

That first rollout was on July 1, 2013. We are just about to hit our five year anniversary. Shortly after that first rollout, we decided to do a stage two where we added an e-filing component. In December 2013, we added the ability to accept electronic filings in all open, civil and criminal cases. We did not handle case initiation at that point in time. The case already had to be opened in CCMS and existing, but filers could add documents and pleadings to those cases.

One of the things that we decided to do because we cannot mandate e-filing within the State of Virginia, but we wanted a lot of users to adopt it so we added an incentive for the attorneys by waiving any fees and e-filing being a free solution. About a year after that, we introduced secure remote access, again using the ImageSoft TrueFiling solution, we are able to allow subscribers to view, print, save any non confidential case file that we have in our system. They have access to these documents 24 hours a day, seven days a week and they are able to view any case file, even one where they are not the attorney of record.

The limitation is they must be a subscriber, subscribers can only be attorneys license in the State of Virginia. [pro se 00:13:53] filers are not allowed to e-file and they are not allowed to use our secure mode of access functionality. We decided to utilize a subscription model so that way people pay on an annual basis for access to the case files and we're not charging on a document by document basis. Part of our fear was that that just introduced a lot of very small cost transactions that were going to be more challenging to manage and we would rather just pay a fee upfront and let the users view as many documents as they need to.

The last step in this first main rollout phase of going paperless is that we enabled case initiations into civil cases again, using ImageSoft's TrueFiling solution. We are able to let the filers upload their documents. We collect the statutory fees through TrueFiling and then we are able to communicate back to the user the case number and a receipt all electronically. We are not having to do any paper transactions in those stages.

So, what has this done for us? What did we incur in this period of time? Between fiscal year 2015 and fiscal year 2017, we saw a significant increase in the number of new cases and the number of documents that our office is processing. We have been able to handle and manage all that additional workload with no changes in head count. The workflow efficiencies and the built in automated processes that are part of our workflow solution enable our existing staff to handle the increase in workload.

As you can see in the metrics below, we've increased the number of case files by 18%, the number of documents we're processing by 6% and that has been done with no additional staff. The other interesting metric there is just that our number of electronic documents that we have in our system represent approximately 20% of all the documents we're processing. We'd love to see that number higher. We're doing what we can, but again because we are unable to mandate e-filing, we still have to accept the paper filings when that's how the attorneys want to provide it.

So, what are some of the things that we learned from this rollout? First and foremost, giving up the paper was really hard. We introduced a lot of change to a lot of users overnight. On July 1, the paper went away and everybody started to process things electronically. They weren't really ready to do that fully. There were times when we had to walk around and go in the bin and say, "Give me back the paper. Give us back the paper. It's going to be okay. It's in the system electronically. You can process it that way." There was a learning curve and it was a bit of an effort to get the folks comfortable with handling it all on the computer. There was a fear it was going to get lost, it wasn't going to work. What if I push the wrong button, where was the document going to go? But with time, they learned that it's in OnBase and we can always find it if something isn't where it seems to be or they think it should be.

We also learned that the best made plans in terms of how we wanted to implement the solution didn't always make sense when we started using them. So for example, when we developed the solution our intention was that we were going to do on demand scanning. A filer walks up to the clerk who's working the front counter, the clerk would accept the filing. They would immediately barcode it with the sticker that will allow it to be scanned into the system and scan it right then and there and QC it so it was available for processing.

Well, that was a lot of pressure on the clerks while people were standing there waiting to go through the process of barcoding and scanning one or potentially a stack of documents. So, we migrated away from that where now we are barcoding on demand and yet we are scanning in batches throughout the day. That has distributed the workload and it's actually given us a little bit better customer service than the on demand scanning was. Folks aren't waiting in line for documents to be scanned. They're able to file them with us and move along and we do get the documents scanned into OnBase several times a day.

Another thing that we thought made a lot of sense was to distribute responsibilities. Instead of having a clerk that specialized in divorces and another clerk that specializes in adoptions and a different clerk that's specialty would be contract disputes, we decided they're all documents, they're all electronic, why don't we just let each document be assigned to everybody and everybody would work through any type of document that came in? Well again, given all the changes that we had already put on the staff migrating to electronic processing, that one didn't work out too well. Folks were not ready to handle every document, every filing type that was out there.

That is something that we ended up changing. We went back to the process where we have clerks that are responsible for divorce documents and any divorce document that gets scanned into OnBase is routed to that clerk for processing. We have another expert in adoptions and all the adoption documents are automatically routed to that clerk for processing. We allowed our staff to keep their area of expertise while also farming out and balancing the workload. We could see by the number of documents and the number of cases that are open, is the workload being distributed efficiently?

Really, the lesson there is that we had to listen to our staff. We had to be ready to get their feedback on the implementation and adjust. Fortunately, the solution that we decided on, using OnBase is very flexible and we were able to make these modifications and adjustments based upon the reality quite easily.

That really segue into the next point. The lessons learned is that our solution is not static. It's not deployed once and done and walk away from it. There are constantly changes in statutes. There are new opportunities for efficiencies. I get clerks who go, "Hey, Christina. I've got a great idea. Can you put this on my list? Instead of doing something A, B, and C, I think we can skip B and go right to C. Can you do that for us?" That's actually something that we're able to do. We're able to listen to that feedback and get these ideas and make some changes.

The other thing and last but not least that made it successful, was that communication was imperative. We had to make sure both our external clients and our internal clients were aware of the changes that were going on and were involved in it. One of the things that we did is that before we went live, when we knew this was happening, we started to put posters out all around the courthouse saying, "Pay attention. Change is coming to the clerk's office. Get ready! We're going to take electronic filing. Be patient. We're in the midst of some change." Just so that the folks who used our office regularly knew what was coming and that we were about to do something different.

We also got the staff brightly colored shirts that said, "Project Paperless. Ask me how we're losing the paper." And little slogans like that on it that again as folks came to our office as we were starting this rollout something looked different because everybody was wearing these shirts and it started a dialogue on this is what we're doing new, this is what's different, this might be how the changes will affect you.

We also did something that was very convenient. We got the buy in from our judges that we could close our offices at 1:00 the first week that we went live. That took a lot of pressure off of our clerks. They had the confidence that if something wasn't working right, we had the afternoon to address the problem. If it was taking them longer to process what they needed to process, they were going to get some down time in the afternoon to get caught back up. That really helped them take the edge off the challenge of all of this change.

Another thing that we did that seemed a little silly at the time but I actually think it made a big difference, is something called Kudos for Coffee. As Paul mentioned, about two months into go live, it was still a little rough. We were hearing a lot of feedback about, "I don't want to get rid of the paper," or, "It used to be this," with stars in their eyes. We decided that one of the ways to rephrase and change the perspective on what was different was how about we try to say what about it was good. We had a little contest that we held where every week we would ask folks in our office as well as in chambers, and actually we asked the public too, folks that use our office, to say something that they think is great about our paperless solution. Something positive about it. We would take all of those throughout the week, vote on them and the winner would get a Starbucks gift card. That's why Kudos for Coffee.

What are some of the things that we heard? One of our courtroom clerks came back saying, "The judge was particularly impressed with the system yesterday when we were able to locate an affidavit in the file in less than two minutes and print it out for a witness to look at." That had to be one of the biggest fears that everybody had when we first went electronic. What happens if we need a piece of paper? How are we going to find it? Guess what? They learned with using it that it's easily accessible in the case files.

Our chief deputy clerk commented that she was happy that people aren't riffling through her desk on a daily basis looking for files. Again, that was part of our reality before we were electronic. Everybody's desk had different files on it and if somebody needed it at that time, somebody was hunting for it. You don't know who was looking for it when. It was inconvenient and used up a lot of time.

Another one of our civil clerks commented, "It's awesome to be able to give attorneys copies of their signed orders right as they come out of court. The judge signs it on the bench and we're able to see it immediately. The attorneys always get pleasantly surprised."

Another courtroom clerk commented that, "It was nice not to have to lug two or more heavy boxes of files back and forth to court on a daily basis." No longer was there a need to bring the buckets of files up to the courtroom. It was all available from the computers.

And last but not least, one of our criminal clerks commented that, "Unity's virtual print feature," which for those of you that don't know, that's the ability to take an electronic document and print it directly into OnBase. You don't have to take a piece of paper and scan it. You can immediately put it right into the OnBase system. "The virtual print feature has saved time and hundreds of trees over the last year." So, there's a lot to be said for the positive feedback that we got internally, as well as from other users.

So as I mentioned, our solution isn't static. It has evolved over time. We have developed our workflows and focused our existing processes ... I'm sorry. When we developed the solution, it was based very much on our paper processes. However, now that we're electronic there's new ways that we can do things to find greater efficiencies because we aren't relying on the paper. Our OnBase workflow solution allowed us to evolve as we found ways to be more efficient, as we were introduced to more processes and automate our solution to get some benefits.

That ability to evolve is really one of the most valuable attributes of our solution. It's not what I see in some of our other solutions that we have. We are the masters of our system. Our court records system that's based on OnBase. We're not restricted by it. We have the flexibility to address changes and resolve issues or make enhancements as we need to. We can control the priorities and the timelines of when things are done. We're able to make some changes in house. I can make some adjustments. I can make some updates as needed. We can count on our county IT resources to make some more advanced changes or some more complicated solutions. If it's very complex or it's a brand new functionality, we also rely on ImageSoft's support to help us make these improvements.

What are some of the things that we did post rollout that were not what we initially anticipated? We decided that it would be great to be able to e-serve signed orders to the parties. I'm sure all of you that are clerks out there are used to the phone calls that your office is getting constantly saying, "Has my order been signed? Has that order been signed? Can you send me that order?"

One of the things that happens with our solution is that once the judge signs an order and it comes to our clerk for processing and the clerk has indicated, "Yes, this order has been signed," the OnBase solution is smart enough to then send it out to anybody who is associated with that case in TrueFiling. So anybody who has logged into the TrueFiling system and said that they're interested in what goes on with that case, gets a copy of that signed order when we're done processing it. It doesn't matter if the order was signed electronically or if it was signed on paper and scanned into our system. The system will automatically email it to those users.

That significantly reduced the volume of phone calls we get from parties checking on orders and it improves our customer service because those orders are received by users or by the attorneys much more quickly than they used to be.

Another thing that we did is we redesigned all of the queues used by the law clerks. Again, we designed their functions very much based upon how did it work in the paper world? That just didn't translate now that the files were electronic. They wanted to refer to related items. They wanted to see what else was in the file that maybe was an important reference as they were reviewing an order or reviewing a motion. We had the ability to design new queues and to optimize the queues that were in place to make it much easier for them to retrieve, track and process the orders that they needed to get done.

It seems silly, but it made a big difference to our clerks here. We designed a new document code for criminal misdemeanor appeals. When we designed it, we didn't give out a unique document code. We just handled it like any other case initiation in a criminal case. We got feedback from the commonwealth attorney's office that these were documents that they wanted to see. What we did is we created a new document code. That document code is smart enough to say that as soon as the clerk is done processing it, the criminal misdemeanor appeals are automatically emailed to the commonwealth attorney's office with the case number on it, with the identifying information they need. We're not getting requests from them for, "Have you opened this case yet? Can you make me a copy of this appeal information?" They know when we have it in our system and they have an electronic record of it immediately.

Some of the other things that we did is we automated our term day processes. I don't know how all of you do that out there, but term day for us is the ability for court to set a trial date. They have to determine that a complaint has been filed and appropriate service has been made. Before when we were in paper, we really did it in an ad hoc fashion where any time a case was open, we would automatically set it for term day about six months out, just in hopes that if nothing had happened by then, we would at least have that hearing and people would be reminded that nothing had happened in that case. But, that was really inefficient. Sometimes cases fell off the radar. Sometimes people were called in for term day and the case actually wasn't ready to go to term day and they didn't know why they were supposed to be there.

What we did instead to automate that solution is that we set a timer so that each complaint as it's processed in our office is set for a four month timer. If no action has been taken on that complaint by the end of the timer, we alert the clerk and the clerk has the opportunity to decide, "Listen, nothing has come in. There hasn't been any action taken on this case." And the system can automatically generate a status letter to call those plaintiffs into the office, or actually into the court to discuss with the judge what's going on, what's happening with that case.

Or, if an answer comes in on the case, that complaint is matched up with the answer and again, a different alert is sent to the clerk indicating, "This case is now ready for term day." The clerk is now aware of that and again uses the system to automatically generate a term day notice and assign that case to the next term day docket so it can be scheduled for trial. We have seen a greatly improved court statistics. We are much more efficient in getting from when a case is opened to when it is finally resolved. That has been a great efficiency for us.

Last but not least, we developed a judge note that allows our judges to create a running diary or note about a specific defendant. The way cases work in Virginia is that a defendant will have multiple case numbers, one for each charge that they have pending against them. For a judge, that gets a little complicated to keep track of which case do I want to look at. I really want to know what is going on with defendant Dietrich, but there wasn't a great way to look that up because defendant Dietrich may have three different case numbers.

So instead, we created this judge note that allows the judge to look up a party by defendant name and see all the charges from any of the cases they look at. They have a running note about what has happened the last time maybe there was a hearing and what's expected to be coming down the road. It's resulted in simplified preparation for our judges and much more timely access to their notes while they're sitting in court on the bench.

So, ImageSoft has developed a case share solution that allows our clerks to automatically organize the electronic documents. To look them up on OnBase and decide these are the documents that need to be included in the appeal. They are packaged together or bundled whereby the case share automatically creates a table of contents and numbers each of the pages. That electronic bundle is a PDF document that has embedded bookmarks in their PDF links that allow the judges to jump from document to document within that PDF file.

Overall, we feel that this paperless electronic court records solution has given us many benefits. First and foremost, our judges are able to review files and sign orders from anywhere. One of the stories I love the best is one of our judges was traveling in Australia. Part of that trip was spent in the Outback. Well, guess who was still able to sign orders and process documents in his queue even though he was on vacation? Our clerks were always surprised. They said, "I thought our judge was on vacation but I'm getting signed orders back from him." Well, he was on vacation and he was still able to keep up with his workload when he was away and came back to not a pile of documents waiting for him to be signing.

Our clerks are able to handle a lot more cases with no additional head count. A lot of that efficiency comes from they're spending less time looking for documents as well as these processes that we put in place that minimize the number of steps or the number of times they have to touch a document.

We have less paper and a much smaller footprint for our file cabinets. We are able to minimize the amount of storage we're using for those things and we're hoping to take advantage of some of that footprint for more shared spaces, for different things that go on in the office.

We have greater accessibility. We're doing better customer service by our attorneys. They're able to e-file and review cases outside of our typical circuit court hours and they feel that that gives them a lot of benefit. I've got to tell you, I've got one attorney who is consistently filling e-documents at 1:30 in the morning. Well for him, that's probably a great convenience. For me, that sounds pretty awful to be working then. But he's able to get his work done when he has the time to get it done and we'll process them when we get in the next business day.

Our solution also has the flexibility to evolve. It has changed from what we envisioned it, from what we initially implemented it to be, and it is going to continue to change and evolve as our needs change.

And last but not least, we have a control over that evolution. We can choose the priorities of what is important, what our system needs to do next, and how we want to get those done. We have the flexibility to do that. We are not waiting for these priorities to be important to other jurisdictions, to other clients. We're able to make those changes on our own and realize the benefits that are important to us in a timely fashion.

I appreciate it. I feel like I've used up all of the time there, but I appreciate everybody paying attention. I look forward to any questions there might be.

Paul:

One thing I'd like to add. This is Paul Ferguson, the clerk, is that it gives you a very objective way to evaluate your employees as far as how fast they're able to process these documents the way the routing system goes to the different clerks in both the civil and the criminal division. They know that too and that I think has increased performance.

Kevin Ledgister:

Well, thank you very much Paul and Christina for that awesome presentation and also for Brad as well. As you said, we'd love to field your questions. If you would like any questions to ask of them, you can use the question box on the side of the webinar and ask a question. We'd be more than happy to field those for you.

Just a couple things that have come up while some others are asking some questions. One of the things is, you talked a little bit about some of the clerks having some challenges and given that paper was really hard. What was it like working with the judges? What were some of the things that you went through and walked through in terms of the judges, in terms of getting them on board and getting them to adopt the new system? What were some of the things you guys ran into?

Paul:

I'll let Christina start, but I had to do a lot of begging and pleading at the start. But I've got to say that once they started using it after the first month, I did get complaints from them the first month. But when they've got a stack of documents and it's a routine signature, they can just click a button. It's a lot faster for them than having to manually sign their name.

The access that they have too for younger judges that are more used to working with computers, being able to work from wherever is a big benefit from them. Then the other thing is the system allows the judges to give us input saying what isn't working for them. The judges note that Christina talked about is a prime example. That didn't happen immediately. The judges were complaining about not being able to do that. Christina took their input, worked with ImageSoft. It took a few months, but once we got that going, that alleviated really all the complaints that I used to get.

Christina:

Yes. I think we did involve them in the fact finding and in the development in the beginning and we did try to be as responsive as possible to their feedback after we rolled the solution out.

One of the other things that I think is important to note. Originally, we had desktop computers on the bench for each of the judges to use. They thought that that actually imposed upon their ability to connect with the people in the courtroom and communicate freely with them. It was kind of a visual barrier. So one of the things that we did that we hadn't planned on doing is each of the judges got a laptop that they were able to use on the bench. They had one common platform that they were comfortable with physically, but it also was a much lower profile and didn't get in their way of again interacting with the people in the courtroom. They felt that was much less of an impairment.

Kevin:

Thank you. A couple of the questions that have come in. One is ... I think I know the answer to this, but I'll let you guys answer this. Is the routing system all done through OnBase and is the DMS integrated into OnBase?

Christina:

Yes. All of our routing is done through OnBase. It was set up by ImageSoft. They came in and they got to learn our processes and they created them from scratch. But it is now something that is completely customizable by us. We have made many modifications over time where we can change where a document goes. Sometimes we felt like we needed to add some extra review stages. Sometimes those review stages were inefficient and we could remove them. But it is all integrated into OnBase.

Paul:

What I don't know is whether ImageSoft can implement this for a court without the OnBase software. This is something that we requested but I'm not sure that OnBase is absolutely necessary. For our local department of technology, they asked for that to be part of it.

Kevin:

That's a great question, Paul. We can most certainly implement our e-filing solution without OnBase. We can send documents to a case management system or to someone else's DMS. That is most certainly possible and most certainly doable. We don't have to have OnBase in there. I will say though that probably the overwhelming majority of our courts do decide to use OnBase at least with the filing review, just because of the sophistication of power, the ability to manage teams of clerks and routing the documents. It just makes a lot more sense. We just haven't seen any case management systems that have that level of functionality that a lot of our courts like.

That's something that we've seen, but yes. It is definitely, we can integrate our TrueFiling system without OnBase. We can also integrate OnBase into a court that may already have an e-filing system or case management system but they want to have that integration system with a workflow solution that can help manage some of those routings and sending documents and data around the court as well too. It goes both ways.

Let's see here. Is TrueFiling document a patchwork solution only or is there the ability to do document generation?

I'll probably take this question on. The TrueFiling solution is a portal that allows attorneys and filers to attach documents and to send those documents to the courtroom or into the case management system or into the clerk's office. As far as document generation is concerned, that's usually done within the OnBase platform or if a court is using their case management system and it has its own document generation capability, we can also send that data on of course to the case management system and they can handle the document generation there.

We've found that in some cases, we've had courts that have their own document generation capability in their case management system. It was very cumbersome to use the required [inaudible 00:42:26] development, whereas our document generation is actually, you open up Microsoft Word and you do some of your document generation configuration right inside there. It lends itself well for a court to be able to manage that or add additional documents to their process as well.

Any other questions that are out there?

Lisa Bober:

Hey, Kevin. We had one come in via the chat here. Running behind the scenes. We have, after you've bundled the appeal, were you able to submit the electronic file to the court of appeals/Supreme Court? Did they allow that interface?

Christina:

Yes. We worked with ImageSoft to follow the rules that were laid out for appeals to meet the requirements for the State of Virginia. There's things about how the documents are ordered, what format they're in, how the different table of contents and bookmarks work within each other. And yes, the solution does create PDFs that we have uploaded onto the [Vasis 00:43:37] and submitted electronically to the court of appeals.

Kevin:

I know we have some other courts here that are from other states. If you're interested in a system like that where your [inaudible 00:43:56] court can receive documents electronically or even if you have to print the documents manually, just having a system that can help you with the ordering of those documents and creating that table of contents in a sense.

I believe too, correct me if I'm wrong Christina, but I believe that packet of documents for appeal is also tech searchable as well too. So if they're not sure where something is, they can also do a search for that and quickly find what they're looking for if I'm not mistaken.

Christina:

Yes. Good point. The bundle appeal volumes are ROCR so that you can search for a specific word or string and find it within that document.

Kevin:

Cool. We've got a couple more questions, but I also just want to reiterate that everybody that's on this webinar will get a link following this webinar so that you will be able to watch it in your office at your leisure. You'll be able to share it with other people in your office. We'll make sure that you'll get a copy of this webinar that you can view.

Another question that came up is, is your court doing any data entry into your CMS? Let's see if I can ... The data is not coming from TrueFiling. Maybe you can talk a little bit about that in terms of how does TrueFiling do any data entry for you into CMS or do you still do all your [inaudible 00:45:22] in CMS? How does that look for you in your court?

Christina:

None of the data that's entered via TrueFiling is pushed to CCMS, but we do have the ability when the clerk is indexing a document. When they're putting information about the document, the date, the description they write, we do have an automated process to push that indexing information from OnBase to CCMS. We can push to the pleadings and order screen. We're also able to push to the hearing screen. Again, from OnBase to CCMS.

We also have the ability when a document is processed in a case for the first time ... So, the first time a case is processed in OnBase, we are able to scrape data, pull data from CCMS about the case, specifically the plaintiff, the defendant, the attorneys and I think that's about it, and apply it to the document in OnBase where it resides and is used from then on. We are able to have communication back and forth between the OnBase solution and CCMS.

Kevin:

Yeah. Thanks Christina. I'll just add a little bit of color to that as well, too. Every state that we go into from a jurisdiction perspective is a little bit different. If someone has a premise based case management system as opposed to a statewide system, sometimes those premise based case management systems if they do allow for the exchange of data, allows us to do certain things.

Just to give you an example, we have one court where when a new case is actually initiated, the OnBase system actually pulls the case management system and says, "Hey, we have a new case initiation. Can you give us a new case number?" The case management system generates a case number and sends it back to OnBase where we update the filing and then we'll update that in the TrueFiling portal too so that everybody gets to know what that actual case number is.

Some of that in terms of what data can be sent back and forth is going to be somewhat dependent on the capabilities of the case management system and what they accept and what they can share. We've had situations too where we sat down with the case management vendor and we had discussions with them and we were able to get them to add an additional functionality into the case management system that facilitated a lot more of that bidirectional communication. So that is possible.

Lisa:

I had another question come in on here, Kevin. Does the system have the ability to be user specific for confidential case files? Can the attorney of record see his own confidential case files?

Christina:

It probably could. We have the ability to customize a lot of permissions on a user basis in terms of what they're allowed to see or what they're allowed to do. That is not how we implemented our secure remote access. We didn't want to really be responsible for maintaining which attorney was the attorney of record on that case, since it can change and be fluid. We didn't want to risk disclosing information to a party that shouldn't see confidential information. So, we chose to only allow non confidential documents through secure remote access, but there are rules ... That was a rule we put in place and I'm sure it could be customized to allow confidential documents to certain users. But again, that's not the architecture we chose.

Kevin:

Yeah. I believe you're correct Christina. That's more of a configuration. We ran into that a lot of times too. Especially when we get family cases and juvenile cases where you need to limit access to certain things and who can actually view those. There are some things that we can do for specific scenarios.

Let's see here. Are items other than paper able to be processed through your system? For example, can a video, audio exhibit be submitted through your case bundle?

Christina:

That is not functionality we support today. We purely use it for documents. It's something that we're getting more interest in now I think as we're getting videos and things in court. Yes, there is an interest in storing that in OnBase also, but that's not part of our solution at this time.

Kevin:

Yeah. The OnBase can most definitely store audio and video files. Whether or not we can upload them through the TrueFiling portal, it is possible. One of the things that we always run into is how big of a file are you going to allow people to actually upload. That's always the discussion that we get into because some video files can be extremely large, require a long time to upload and you wouldn't want somebody trying to upload a 5 GB file that slows everybody else down that's trying to get their filings in on time. Those are some things that we have discussions with the courts on a case by case basis. We have some other ways of getting those files into the system or more efficient and effective ways to store some of those really large files and how to handle those.

Here's a great question. How are you handling deadlines with e-filing after hours? Is it based on circuit business hours? For instance, if somebody files something at 11:00 on a Friday, is date stamped for Monday at 8:00 AM? How do you guys handle those kind of situations?

Christina:

One of the things I mentioned earlier is that in Virginia, we cannot require e-filing, so we have tried to give our attorneys incentives for using the system. One of them is that we waived any e-filing fees. We also extended our hours. So even though our office is closed, you have until 11:59 at night to get credit for filing a document on a given day.

For example, that's a big deal for us because we have motions day on Fridays. If you're filing in paper, you have to have your document submitted by noon, depending upon what kind of document it is, either one week before you want to be on the docket or two weeks before you want to be on the docket. That cut off is a hard cut off at noon. With electronic filing, we give them until 11:59 at night and we have quite a few users who maybe don't go until 11:59, but they are very happy to have the remainder of that afternoon to still file their notice and get it on the next week's docket. We did choose to go by the day, not our operating hours to accept documents.

Paul:

And our judges enshrined that in our local rules so that it's official, not just a decision from the clerk's office.

Christina:

Yes

Kevin:

That's great. Lisa, do you have any other questions on your end through the chat feature?

Lisa:

Yes. We have one more that came in. Do you all have to do journal vouchers for fees collected for e-filing in the system?

Christina:

Yes we do. When a document or a case is initiated electronically, we use TrueFiling to collect the statutory fees from the filer. We then get a transfer ... When that clerk is ringing up that transaction in FMS, which is our financial ... I'm sorry, it's now FAS, Financial Accounting System. They indicate in there that it's an EFT transfer. So that way, our bookkeeper is able to search for those in a very easy manner. When we get the transfer of funds the following business day from ImageSoft, the bookkeeper will say to line up those EFT charges and verify that that's the same amount that we're getting from ImageSoft. Then, they journal voucher it into the appropriate ...

No, actually. They don't have to journal voucher it because it's already in the right account, but they have to reconcile the EFTs with the transfer the next day from TrueFiling. Sorry. We don't use journal vouchers.

Paul:

One thing I'll just add is that we wanted to stay part of our state's system. So ImageSoft has done a good job of working so that we can still be part of the state system, rather than having something separate, but and having the features that we want that the state doesn't offer through their secure remote access, through their electronic appeals, through their e-filing.

I'm frustrated that our total number of e-filing cases is at about 20%, but if you look at the courts that are using e-filing that's the Supreme Court system, for whatever reason the users have not found it sufficient enough that they're using it in large percentages. The informal survey I've had is that there's minimal use of it. That's an informal survey. There could be a court that the filing is past ours at 20% using the state system.

Kevin:

And there certainly are courts that are out there that have a higher ... I know sometimes in the government circles you're limited by that, but sometimes you wish you could hold up some sort of [inaudible 00:55:21].

Paul:

I won't [crosstalk 00:55:23] but one of the clerks in Virginia I can tell my colleagues from Virginia privately when I see them, basically let's them know that if it's filed in paper, they have the right to file it in paper but its not going to move very fast. You know, the attorneys there don't like being told that they have to e-file, but he's been very aggressive about it and people do [inaudible 00:55:50]. So my guess is that particular clerk's percentages are way up.

Kevin:

Great point.

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