Computer Glitches Threaten Court System’s Restructuring Plan

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The Vermont court system is experiencing delays and technological challenges as it tries to computerize its case management system.

The problems – which threaten to setback the courts’ restructuring plans – come two years after the judiciary tried to make a great leap forward in technology.

Court administrators ordered a software system designed to easily track cases, provide public access, and allow court staff and attorneys to work on case files from remote locations. Robert Greemore is the court administrator.

"The overall goal was to provide basically 24/7 access to the courts on-line for the public, that you could move work to people and not people to work, that we would have an electronic case record so litigants could access their case files on line and see what each party had filed." Greemore says.

The court system signed a $4.7 million contract with New Dawn Technologies of Utah to get the new case management system up and running.

Part of the project was supposed to be phased in by now and rolled out in full next year. It’s now at least a year behind schedule, with delivery expected at the end of 2014.

"We still haven’t achieved any of the electronic interfaces that we would have liked," Greemore says. "And we’re still working on how we can achieve those."

Greemore says the delays will affect a court-wide restructuring plan the legislature approved two years ago. The plan was supposed to save money, and streamline court operations.

"The delay in technology has made the restructuring that occurred in the court system two years ago a bit more challenging because we were not able to gain the efficiencies we had hoped for in the time given," he says.

New Dawn Technologies did not respond to requests by phone and email for comment.

But the court’s computer problems are not unique in state government. The Department of Motor Vehicles has been trying to upgrade an outdated computer system for years. It’s spent $18 million on a system that officials say still doesn’t work as promised.

Darwin Thompson, Vermont’s deputy commissioner of Information and Innovation, says his department has provided some guidance to the Judiciary on the new computer system.

Thompson says the goal is to make sure taxpayers get their moneys worth.

"Certainly lessons learned (from DMV) and exactly what we’re trying to avoid," Thompson says. "We want taxpayer dollars to result in things that add value not only to the business of getting state government work done. But to add value to the citizens’ interactions."

The state’s vendor, New Dawn Technologies, has extensive experience designing information management systems for courts, prosecutors and defense lawyers. But Court Administrator Robert Greemore says the Vermont job was the first time New Dawn has designed one complete network for an entire state court system.

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