For the Public
Frequently Asked Questions
In addition to these general questions and answers concerning the project, there are additional FAQs for Attorneys.
Can you provide an explanation of what Electronic Content Management consists of?
Electronic content management is software that stores and manages all electronic “things” associated with a case – documents, digital audio, video, pictures, etc. and links them to a case for access.
Why does the Judiciary need to consider a new case management system?
Beginning in 2001, the Judiciary began to examine its multiple extant case management legacy systems of varying age, some decades old. Such an examination of the Judiciary systems was necessary due to their lack of flexibility, maintainability and functionality, as well as their limited capacity for interoperability with present and future systems of our criminal justice partners.
Expenditures to date (through fiscal year 2009) have been directed principally toward upgrading the IT infrastructure to ensure that it could support an integrated statewide court management system (ISCMS) scenario.
The Judiciary currently has engaged a major IT consulting firm to plan, develop, and implement a single comprehensive Judiciary-wide court management system that will serve to modernize both our business and information technology processes.
What is the timeframe for the project?
Five years, although that is dependent on possible resource and funding constraints.
With e-filing and electronic case records, will paper copies still be available?
Paper copies will be able to be printed on demand.
How will be new case management system be launched to ensure no interruptions in court operations?
There are four phases to the project.
- STAGE I – Case Management Modernization
- Phase I – Infrastructure Readiness / Modernization
- Phase II – Data Migration / Real Time Delivery
- These phases represent the foundational aspects for a new system and are a prerequisite to hosting a single unified court management system. This infrastructure and architecture build-out included the new application framework, processing (server, storage) and security infrastructures and the real-time movement of court data to the new processing servers and the Oracle database structures. The Judiciary’s wide-area network also was upgraded to support new systems.
- As initially defined, this Phase of the project has been completed.
- STAGE II – Court Management Build-Out
- Phase III – Data Exchange / Interface Replacement
With the establishment of the data environment, this phase addresses the replacement of existing methods and technologies for exchanging data. Using national justice technology standards and mutually agreed upon processes, the intent is to allow data to be transferred as required by the requesting agencies.
Selected pilots using Global Justice XML data standards and web services technology will be initiated with state criminal justice agencies. This phase will continue into FY 2010 as additional agencies/interfaces are replaced.
- Phase IV – Replacement & Expansion of Court Business Functionality
Court Management Build-Out initiatives began in fiscal year 2009, whereby the various extant case management systems will be replaced with a single, unified court management system. Court business processes are being captured and, where appropriate, are being reengineered to realign business process for improved information flow and court processing. Major next steps include completion of a requirements design, as well as an analysis for component build/buy strategies followed by implementation of the various court management components consisting of a workflow process engine, electronic content management, e-services, decision support and court performance modules.
This phase of the project is expected to continue over the next four to five fiscal years.
How will the Case Management components outside of the scope of this project be coordinated into the end product?
The Judiciary Information Systems (JIS) Project Management Office is responsible for coordination between these projects to insure the proper degree of integration. Interoperability standards are included in the request for proposals (RFPs) for all associated projects, and the requirements of the Integration Backbone component will include ‘fittings’ for all of the exchange types identified in the Interoperability Plan being developed.
What will be done with cases that were initially filed in paper form? Will we continue to use paper until those cases have been closed? Will the e-filing start on a particular day and after that day, all new case submissions be electronic?
Closed or inactive case files will most likely not be converted to electronic format, or will be converted on an as-needed basis (most likely due to being reopened or some other demand). The strategy for converting active case files will be determined with the chosen vendor. E-filing will be allowed from Day 1 of MDEC operation; when (or if) it will be required has not yet been decided. It is also planned that paper filings will be scanned and maintained electronically from Day 1.
What will happen with the old paper files?
Paper files of closed cases will not be digitized. These files will be retained and managed according to current retention schedules. Certain old files may be digitized on an as-needed basis to address demand for access to the case more efficiently.
Will transcripts be electronic as well?
Yes, as will some evidence.
Is the Judiciary considering charging those who don't e-file, a charge for not using the system?
How will the system work with the Public Information Act if someone wants to see an electronic record/case?
In general, records will be available online; however, availability and access to these records will be subject to security and privacy considerations.
Will the data be subject to user fees?
User fees have been determined. Who may be charged and what (or if) they will be charged has yet to be determined.
What is the timeframe for the project?
The time to implement the project fully is dependent on a continuous and sufficient funding stream, as well as the acquisition of the necessary technical resources.
Will the systems between the Courts talk to each other?
The goal of this project is to provide a single solution for Appellate, Circuit and District Courts that will facilitate electronic communications of case information between the aforementioned court levels.
Will forms be changed to include email addresses for each party?
The system will include email address as part of a party record. There is a forms and reports initiative underway to review, update, and standardize (to the greatest degree possible) forms in use by the courts. This initiative will determine those forms that should include email information. Subsequent analysis will be required to establish a Judiciary policy permitting email as an acceptable form of notification and correspondence.
What type of access will be available for criminal records?
Access will be based on a number of factors: applicable Maryland Rules; present availability of electronic case information to the public; any agreements reached between the Judiciary and its criminal justice partners; identity or role of the entity making the inquiry (case party, attorney, general public, etc.) as determined by authentication and authorization rules.
Who is overseeing the project?
The project is being overseen by Chief Judge Bell and the Judiciary's Technology Oversight Board. From a tactical perspective, the project is being managed by the Administrative Office of the Courts.
What are the legacy systems?
There are a number of systems that make up the “legacy system”, and these systems have performed well over time, some for over 30 years. The technologies that these applications rely on do not operate on current generation hardware and operating systems, limiting the ability to maintain and update the underlying systems and the applications themselves. Also, there is a question whether the older operating system and database management system can index and manage materially more court records. Roughly 2 dozen applications that comprise the legacy environment were not designed to interoperate. Finally, many of the staff who have maintained these systems are retiring representing the loss of the knowledge base and skills to maintain these antiquated systems.
If e-filing is optional, rules will need to be created to accommodate both the paper and electronic option. Will we always need to have this level of duality?
The ultimate vision for the MDEC system is a fully electronic environment. The manner in which this process is facilitated may vary over time. Ultimately, given the tremendously varied demographics of the Judiciary’s customers, it is likely that the Courts will always retain some means of accepting paper. In the long-term, this capability will be scaled back as paper becomes less prevalent.
Is there any discussion about the retention scheduling of the records? Where will you begin with the records?
Ensuring proper retention, archiving, and disposition of records is a critical concern. The Judiciary has been working with the State Archives to ensure that proper retention of records is addressed with the system.
What is a charter?
The charter is the scope document. That is, it describes what will be included in the procurement to create the overall court management system.
So, there are 24 states that have done this already?
Yes and no. Most of those 24 states have incorporated one, two or a few of the components. Maryland will be unique in that we will incorporate all 4 levels of court and all case types into 1 system. This may be the most far reaching project the Judiciary will have.
Case search is missing a lot of information. Will the new system do the same?
Case search is missing a lot of information and is not fully real-time. The new system will be real-time and allow access to documents electronically. The file will become electronic.
If I'm the commissioner and I make a decision and hit the button, will the information I just entered go directly into the system?
Yes, once a decision is made and entered into the system, it will electronically go into the case management system.
So the person who wants a postponement for their traffic case, they'll be able to see the request electronically?
Yes, it will be entered electronically into the case management system and accessible for viewing.
So what prevents information from going to the wrong place (i.e., The wrong justice partner)?
This is prevented by data exchange agreements and rules enforced by the system. As part of interoperability, it's necessary to have the Court and justice partners work together on those exchange agreements.
Will this system allow someone to file online from home?
Yes, one will be able to electronically file from home or a law firm can file electronically after hours.
Will the parties only receive the electronic documents for free?
Yes, that is the proposed policy. This is the same concept we currently follow.
How will you subpoena parties?
If attorneys are electronically certified, will be able to subpoena electronically, but for those who don't have the ability, will have to serve using paper.
When will the other counties start getting this new system?
After Anne Arundel County has been rolled out.
When can someone first expect to be able to efile?
Most likely in 2013. During the testing phase in Anne Arundel County, we will be using dummy files.
Are there any other court programs that are electronic (besides e-citation)?
E-citation, DVCR and warrants where data is electronically transferred between agencies; E-pay on traffic tickets; E-filing in Landlord Tenant in Prince George's County District Court; E-filing in Asbestos litigation in Baltimore City; ELROI.
Will those without computers be able to enter the system through the vendor?
Those without computer access will be able to go to the courthouse and view documents there. The vendor is primarily for law firms. In terms of those without computers, they will be able to access the system at libraries and locations where there may be a public internet connection.
What about those who don't know how to use a computer?
They will be able to access via a public internet connection. We may provide online training.
If you file against someone in civil, will you have to serve them in paper?
The initial filings will be served via paper, but if the opposing party doesn't have an attorney, yes, you will need to print and serve them.
Why should a filer pay $5 to file when they still must serve the opposing party?
The primary benefits to the filer are:
- Extended hours for filing. - Elimination of delays.
- Certainty of filing and service.
- Simplification of administration, especially for matters with many parties.
- Remote filing and cost savings.
So, this will be used in all court levels?
Yes, it will be used in all 4 levels of court.
What court-related documents will be sealed?
Search warrants, confidential proprietary business material, medical information, financial information. A number of items since this is a court-wide system.
Will citizens still have the capacity to view the case in the clerks office?
There will no longer be paper files. We will have a computer set up where citizens can look at the electronic file.
In order to pay tickets and e-file, will the public have to set up an account?
We are still looking at how to receive electronic payments.
Will there be job loss?
What happens if the system goes down?
The servers will be distributed regionally so that disruption will be limited (allow access within minutes).
Is the idea to ultimately make the e-filing system mandatory?
We don't think so, but some bulk filings may be mandatory such as asbestos and landlord/tenant. The Technology Oversight Board has decided not to make e-filing mandatory so as to not limit access.
What is the plan to deal with the appellate courts?
The vision is for the record to come to the Appellate Courts electronically. At this point, we are not positive about what we'll do with the unpublished opinion.
Are you envisioning a system similar to PACER and not the DC court system (the DC system is more of an electronic dumping ground as far as interface)?
We are looking for MDEC to be fashioned after a system similar to PACER.
The DC system has a screening process that isn't always correct. Will your system provide a screening process?
We will have a screening process and are looking for it to be timely.
The California system uses both a vendor and the court for e-filing. The vendor reviews the filing and can reject it, and not always timely. Will e-filing be reviewed on the spot (as to not have an effect on deadlines)?
Our Advisory Committee is working on the review function and we will seek input from the vendor, once selected about a timely review function.
What degree of resistance are you feeling in regards to funding?
Funding has been great thus far. The Legislature has provided the necessary funds through the current fiscal year to accomplish a lot and we are hoping they continue to provide the $8.5M we will need each year to properly complete the project. That being said, part of the issue is that the Judiciary's major IT budget has been placed and funded through the Land Records Fund. That fund has alot of limitation and issues and we're hoping the Legislature will provide the funding we've requested given the anticipated benefits of the system.