MDEC Update

Anne Arundel County Rolls Out MDEC

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On October 14, 2014, Maryland Electronic Courts, MDEC, launched in Anne Arundel County, the first county to roll out the new electronic case management system. The MDEC project will create a single Judiciary-wide integrated case management system that will be used by all the courts in the state court system. The launch in Anne Arundel County marks the first, crucial step in statewide implementation.

Two of the people who have been deeply involved in preparing for the launch in Anne Arundel County are Clerk of the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Robert Duckworth and Assistant Chief Deputy Lisa Preston. They sat down before the launch to answer questions about MDEC and its rollout in Anne Arundel County.

How are you getting ready for the pilot?
What’s on your to-do list?

Bob Duckworth

BOB DUCKWORTH (BD): Well, the question really is: How is our Clerk’s Office getting ready for the rollout of MDEC? It’s not really a pilot to be tested but the actual live MDEC system to be rolled out. We are the first jurisdiction to have MDEC roll out. As such, the Anne Arundel County courthouse and, in particular, the Clerk’s Office welcomes the challenge of an electronic court with its new business practices in managing the filing, docketing, scheduling, and disposition of our case workload.

Lisa Preston

LISA PRESTON (LP): We’ve been busy with a number of things on our to-do list to be ready for the ‘go live’ MDEC date. To begin, our circuit clerks have been active participants in configuring how the MDEC system will work in our Circuit Court. This has been a major help in orienting ourselves to an MDEC work world. It has been a team effort from the bottom up, as well as the top down, in MDEC’s design and build-out. To wit: many of our frontline clerks sit on work groups, committees and conference calls alongside our judges and court operation personnel, with the Maryland Judiciary staff and the MDEC project vendor, Tyler Technologies. This allows these clerks to help train the rest of the clerks, as well as orient our judges and other court personnel before we go live. This working knowledge of MDEC has allowed us to assess and identify the needed skill sets and functions of our clerks in an electronic court operation, another important item on our to-do list. And, we’ve been coordinating with our judicial partners. The collaborative nature of this project is really what will make this a success.

BD: Also, we’ve been working to upgrade courthouse infrastructure, such as upgrading computers, providing electronic scanning of paper files, transitioning to electronic courtrooms and providing public terminals required for an electronic court operation. In this effort, the Clerk’s Office has been coordinating and working very closely with the Maryland Judiciary’s JIS (Judicial Information Systems), our court operations team, and the county’s Office of Information Technology staff to identify the required updates to assure our courthouse can handle this new electronic court system. We truly appreciate the level at which we have been able to contribute to this important project.

Keyboard b/w

There's a lot of work involved in launching the new case management system, and it's going to cost a lot of money to put it in place statewide. Why do you think MDEC is so important to Maryland and its citizens? Why is going electronic important?

BD: Generally, going electronic with MDEC is a critical step to updating the Maryland Judiciary with the rest of the world and other state court systems along with federal courts. MDEC generally will deliver justice more effectively and equitably. Think of everything else we now do online, such as banking, shopping, or buying airline tickets.

Specifically, MDEC will enhance the process for the filing and service of cases since this will be accomplished electronically rather than by mail or delivered at the courthouse counter. Also, it will provide greater convenience to the public and legal community with immediate access to court documents through an electronic portal rather than waiting at the clerk’s counter for a court file.

LP: Sharing information electronically will reduce lags produced by waiting for documents to go back and forth through the mail, and we will not need to worry about court paper getting lost in the shuffle. Along the same lines, clerks will be able to spend more time doing valuable court-related work, as opposed to chasing down paper and files. In this system, many court offices will be able to work on one case file at the same time.

Additionally, we expect greater and more efficient coordination and interoperability between courts and court agencies.

Will people who have business with the courts notice any changes when MDEC is in place? What will be different about how people file lawsuits or how their cases are recorded and filed?
BD: If they are MDEC registered electronic filers, they will notice great advantages. One advantage from paper filing is that lawsuit cases will be e-filed from their portals. Plus, filing electronically can take place 24 hours a day, unlike paper lawsuit filing, which is only when the courthouse door is open for public business.
Also, electronic filers will be able to access the record and its contents in real-time without having to make phone calls or visit the courthouse. However, Circuit Court clerks will still be validating e-filed case documents; the e-filed case document will be electronically recorded by the clerk and become the original court record. The electronic recording process by the Circuit Court will have the same high quality as today if not better.

What do you think the first day of the pilot launch will be like in Anne Arundel Circuit Court? What do you think people should expect?
BD: Certainly, it will be a bit hectic. However, so much time and energy have gone into preparing for the system that we will be ready to rock and roll it out. We have stepped up to the plate before with the new Anne Arundel County courthouse when we had a weekend deadline to move in and get ready for a Monday court docket and we didn’t skip a beat. Tyler, JIS, Court Operations, and our Clerk’s Office are working hard now to identify any potential glitches and make sure they are avoided come go live. GO MDEC!