The Judicial Council and the Alaska Court of Appeals have further expanded a computerized case management system designed by the Council for the appellate court. The first version of the system, which was funded by a federal grant of $100,000, has been in place since late 1994. William Cotton, Peggy Skeers-Kerr and Alan McKelvie of the Judicial Council worked on the project with Judge David Mannheimer, Appellate Clerk of Court Jan Hansen and others from the court system.
The design of the new system follows a report on Alaska criminal justice computer systems prepared for the Judicial Council by Wolfe and Associates, a management consulting firm. The Council commissioned the statewide study at the direction of the state legislature. The Wolfe report, released in May 1994, examined computer management systems in the Alaska Court System, in the Departments of Law, Corrections, and Public Safety and in other agencies involved with the criminal justice process and made recommendations for future development. (See "Coordinating Criminal Justice Information Systems," Alaska Justice Forum, Spring 1994.) The study estimated that the design of a system for the Alaska Court of Appeals would cost approximately $250,000.
Currently, the new appellate case management system is available only through terminals in the offices of the Court of Appeals and the Appellate Clerk in Anchorage, and access is limited to court personnel and members of the Judicial Council design team.
For fiscal year 1994, the Court of Appeals reported 422 cases filed and 411 disposed, and at the end June 1994, 453 cases were pending. The previous case management system utilized computerization to a very limited extent; many tasks were performed manually. Completely built anew using Microsoft Access and Windows-based WordPerfect, the new system permits thorough computer tracking of case information as well as overall management of tasks and document creation and imaging. The system uses 486 and Pentium PCs for both server and workstations.
Appellate court personnel can now enter case information and monitor the progress of the appeal process. Case data are presented through a series of linked screens displaying general case information (number, status, parties, attorneys and judges); opening pleading information; status and location of trial court record and transcript; information on motions; information on briefs; information on oral arguments; chambers information (the assignment and drafting of opinions); and publication information.
The case management system permits monitoring of task assignments, scheduling and status by user and case number. The revised version of the system also permits automatic scheduling of some case tasks as they appear in the appellate process.
Users can create documents through WordPerfect and scan in documents through Paperbridge software. (Ordinarily, only documents of ten pages or less are scanned; longer documents are maintained in paper form.) Templates for many routine orders and notices are available in WordPerfect.
The system design also provides the capability for court personnel to give timely feedback and suggestions on improvements to the Judicial Council design team. Further revisions of the software will continue to address such user concerns.
As funding becomes available, the Council plans to expand the operation of the system to the Alaska Supreme Court and to Fairbanks and Juneau and to make limited access available to offices and agencies regularly involved with the Court of Appeals, such as the Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals and the Office of the Public Defender.
In addition, this case management system has been designed to permit future integration with a new system for the Alaska Supreme Court and, as recommended by the Wolfe report, to interface with other justice system management systems as they evolve. The current software permits inclusion of the Arrest Tracking Number (ATN) now being adopted throughout the criminal justice system to facilitate more accurate compilation of criminal histories.
Because this design represents the state of the art in computerized appellate case management, the Judicial Council hopes to make its work available to other courts throughout the country.