Doxpop - Tools for Attorneys and Public Information Researchers: August 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

Indiana Court Announces Bulk Data Direction

The Indiana Supreme Court, Division of State Court Administration has declared its intentions with regard to bulk access to public information about court cases stored in its own system. The statement of direction is short on details but better than no statement at all, I suppose. Doxpop and others have requested access to the public information and we're eager to get something workable in place.

Today I received a letter from Jim Walker, Director of Trial Court Management. It states that the Division is exploring how to make bulk data available in a uniform manner from the state-sponsored case management system, Odyssey. The cost, format, and frequency of publication is not yet determined. No timetable is given for completion of their analysis or for providing the data.

Doxpop has been corresponding with the Division for over a year-and-a-half with regard to accessing bulk data from the Odyssey system. On January 29, 2007 we sent a formal request to Mary DePrez, Director and Counsel for Trial Court Technology, asking to begin collaboration on the exchange of public information with the Odyssey system. On October 25, 2007 we sent a formal request to Lilia Judson, Executive Director of State Court Administration, for access to Monroe County court information in anticipation of Monroe County switching over to the Odyssey system. Nearly 19 months have passed since our original request for collaboration, and 10 months since our specific request for access to public information from Monroe County.

Although I am encouraged by the statement of direction, I hope that the Division and the Judicial Technology and Automation Committee (JTAC) can move more quickly on completing its analysis and actually providing access than it has in considering the very idea of bulk access to public information.

Access delayed is access denied.

What we learned from Justice Sullivan.

On Friday, Ray and I attended a meeting of the Commission on Courts. Justice Sullivan's comments at that meeting about the JTAC effort to roll out a statewide Case Management System included a couple of interesting assertions. -Both in connection with an astute question from Representative Ryan Dvorak. He inquired about courts who wished to continue using their current Case Management System and whether any standards for compatibility were contemplated. The answer was revealing:

1) In regard to standards, Sullivan asserted that the State Court had tried that path and decided that because technology advances so quickly, that approach was unworkable.

This highlights a fundamental difference in our approaches. At Doxpop, we believe that the best way to keep pace with technology is to create functional standards to promote the consistent administration of justice and then allow the free market to respond with the best technology has to offer.

2) In regard to the systems currently existing, I understood from Justice Sullivan that the strategy is to roll out the Odyssey CMS to any county that will accept it freely and then ask the public policy question of whether local courts should be allowed to spend public funds on a system that is "technically inferior".

This makes the uncertain assumption that the State's system is superior technology. County Courts have been discouraged from replacing or upgrading their systems since 1995 and this has resulted in outdated technology in many counties. However, the courts that have decided to move forward on their own currently enjoy features such as document management, integrated probation modules, e-filing and on-line access to a statewide repository of public court records- features that are certainly on par with or exceed the features of system installed in Monroe County.

A modest proposal: Let's all work together to serve the people of Indiana. The free market has a way of keeping pace with technology despite the best efforts of government.

What we learned in Bloomington.

Last week, Ray and I traveled to Bloomington to learn for ourselves how Odyssey is working out. We came back with a clear understanding that although it may have potential, the task of making Odyssey ready for roll out to other Indiana courts is not done. From every person we talked to, we learned that the public access falls short of the standards Doxpop previously established in Monroe County, and from one, we learned that the Clerk's office works harder to maintain records in this CMS than with the previous system.

Doxpop stands ready to assist in one aspect of this task... On January 27, 2007, Doxpop requested access to a regular data feed from the Odyssey system per our existing authorization from the Courts of Monroe County. We were quickly told that in the new environment, the County Courts no longer control who has access to their data. Therefore, we had to submit a request to the Division of State Court Administration instead. This request was submitted on October 25, 2007. We're still waiting.

JTAC has excellent goals. Doxpop stands ready to help. Tomorrow, I'll talk a little more about the goals of JTAC and how companies in Indiana can help them achieve their goals.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

One-half gives us two reasons to celebrate. Doxpop welcomes Shelby County.

This is the post of twos: Two years of anticipation, two offices in one county, two reasons to celebrate, and one-half of the state...

Last week we had the pleasure of welcoming Shelby County as Doxpop's 46th county court partner. Of course we're always excited about working with a new county, but this addition is doubly sweet because it represents half the State.

A big "Thank You" goes out to Clerk Carol Stohry and Judges Charles O'Conner, Jack Tandy and Russell Sanders. They were an easy group to work with and we are honored that they chose to make their information available through Doxpop.

And just to make sure we don't forget our old friends, I should note that the Shelby County Recorder, Mary Jo Phares, has made Recorded Documents available on Doxpop since March of 2007.

Kudos to the Wayne County Recorder. Fifteen Years!

Congratulations to the Wayne County Recorder's office on the completion of their recent back-scanning effort. Debby Resh and her staff now have a full 15 years worth of indexed document images on their system.

Of course the entire 15-year history is available on Doxpop as well, so we're basking in their reflected glory! <big grin>

Monday, August 11, 2008

Shelby County Courts Join Doxpop

Doxpop is pleased to announce the addition of the Shelby County Courts as the newest local government information providers in the Doxpop community. With the addition of Shelby County, Doxpop now provides access to Court information in half of all Indiana Counties.

The court information available for Shelby County includes all cases filed beginning in July of 1995 and any older cases still open at that time.

Shelby and the many other counties working with Doxpop help serve the public interest by making information available via the web at no cost to the county. Doxpop provides a range of tools designed to facilitate timely and efficient communication between county agencies and those who use county data.

Doxpop has been providing public access to Indiana court records since 2002 and Indiana recorded documents since 2005. Shelby County is the 46th court system to join the Doxpop network, which currently provides access to over 8.7 million court case records and over 2.5 million recorded documents.