More Money Needed To Update Court System

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The Vermont Judiciary will need to ask the legislature for more money to update the court’s computer system.

That’s the word from Associate Justice John Dooley. He’s led efforts to bring Vermont courts into the 21st century with electronic filing and case management systems.

Dooley told the Legislature’s Judicial Rules Committee that only the Windsor and Rutland civil courts are set up to accept documents filed on line. But he said these courts also have to run a parallel paper system.

"And so they’re guinea pigs that have more work than less, since they have to work out the bugs (and) they have to do everything another court would do," he said.

The electronic filing system was supposed to integrate with a more sophisticated case management system. But that technology has also bogged down. The consultant the state hired to do the work has not delivered a product the courts can use.

The state has paid about $1.7 million of the $5 million contract. Dooley said the courts will ask the Legislature for help to address the technology problems.

"A major problem, frankly is that case management systems of this kind are as much a cost of a state, wherever the state is, as they are on a population base," Dooley said. "So there are significant money issues involved in this."

Dooley said a court technology committee that he chairs should have recommendations by the first of the year.

Bennington Senator Dick Sears, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, says the courts will have to compete for scare state dollars in a lean budget year. Sears pointed out that while the judicial branch may need help, so do low income people who depend on state funds to help them heat their homes.

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