Modernising the courts

Court systems around the world are under unprecedented pressure to cut costs, and tackle age-old challenges of delay, inefficiency and ineffective cases


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C-Track, a system designed by Thomson Reuters, has for more than ten years been a huge success at helping tackle challenges in a range of courts across the United States. C-Track is a user-friendly case management solution that has been specifically designed to capture, track, process and report on court information, allowing more efficient handling and processing of data.

Jim Leason, court management solutions programme manager at Thomson Reuters, explains that C-Track is divided into three modules. The first deals with back-office case management issues, such as scheduling, listings and other general document management, while the other two provide e-filing and public access capabilities.

These front-end modules allow for the depositing of documents into the court system, with C-Track capable of managing the passage of cases through all courts and tiers in the system, not just those devoted to commercial hearings or those for hearing trials. They also provide live public access to case listings and other non-confidential case information facilitating a more transparent process.

“Many existing court technology systems have been around for 15-plus years and need updating,” says Mr Leason. “There have been several programmes announced in recent years to deliver ‘digital by default’ justice, a current aim of the Ministry of Justice and the Scottish government. As the Unified Patent Court, a European initiative, comes into existence, it will be implementing court technologies from the start. Our C-Track product suite can deliver an efficient and unified system for the courts.”

Minnesota’s state supreme court implemented the system nearly a dozen years ago and in 2008 Chief Justice Eric Magnuson said, in his state of the judiciary address, that C-Track had made a big impact.

Most existing court management technology in the UK has been in place for around 15-plus years and needs updating

“Minnesota’s information systems have leapfrogged more than a century,” he said, “from a time where physical pieces of paper were hand-delivered from place to place, to a time when case records are updated in court in real time; case histories are available online in a second or two; and one can toggle back and forth between multiple documents from a laptop on the bench or in chambers.”

At the Montana state supreme court, where the system was implemented in 2002, records show that during its first 12 months, C-Track was responsible for an 11 per cent reduction in cases carried forward to the next year.

Announcing the modernisation programme in London last year, Justice Minister Mike Penning warmed the hearts of tech-savvy litigation lawyers by stating the government was “committed to ending the courts’ outdated reliance on paper”.

Andrew Pena, a commercial litigator and managing partner at London solicitors’ firm Cubism Law, is among specialists who will be looking forward to improvement. “Our court system prides itself on being one of the most robust, fairest and attractive to international litigants, so we need to think through how as much of the process can be done online and virtually, with less paperwork,” he says.

That’s all well and good for those lawyers and judges at home with technology, but are there others in the legal profession standing in the way of modernisation?

“There’s an element of that,” Mr Pena concedes. “But in the past there have been issues around the quality of the technology and ease of access. The key is simplicity – the ease of use of the system. If it is easy to use, then people will embrace it.”

C-TRACK

HIGHLY CONFIGURABLE

C-Track can be configured to meet your court’s needs, and is easily adaptable to unique rules and processes. C-Track also includes a tool that allows rule changes to be made quickly and easily without technical support.

EASY TO INSTALL AND MAINTAIN

The system resides on a server, giving you access right from your web browser, meaning there’s no software to install.

SCALABLE SOLUTION

C-Track is a tailored, adaptable and scalable solution, which currently supports three million cases, 20.6 million filings and 14,500 users.

MODULARISED

Use all of C-Track or only the modules that align with your strategic needs.

INTEGRATED

C-Track can be integrated with almost any court application from an existing case management system, to a solicitor’s registration system, to an accounting or document management system.

COMPREHENSIVE

C-Track provides comprehensive case processing functions from case initiation through disposition and archiving. It also allows for extensive searching and real-time interactive reporting.

INTUITIVE

Prior to installation, the entire system can be reviewed and tailored to meet the specific needs of your court. The system allows intuitive document generation, event recording in real time and custom alerting.

RELIABLE

C-Track has a proven performance record over more than ten years in a variety of courts and significantly reduces risk compared with a ground-up built system.

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C-TRACK SUITE OF PRODUCTS

C-TRACK CASE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (CMS)

C-Track Case Management System manages information about cases, filings, parties, calendars and opinion processing, allowing courts to track their performance and maximise efficiency. Powerful listing functionality adapts to both appellate courts and high-volume trial court environments.

C-TRACK E-FILING

C-Track E-Filing allows parties to electronically file documents, enabling greater efficiency and reduced costs in case preparation. It is offered as a standalone solution and can be easily integrated into the court’s environment or installed as a hosted solution.

C-TRACK PUBLIC ACCESS

C-Track Public Access is a highly configurable application that allows the general public to search for non-confidential cases using simple search criteria such as case number, solicitor or party.

OTHER MODULES

Other C-Track products include a criminal case module and additional modules continue to be developed.

MODERNISATION IN LAND OF LAKES

At 5.4 million souls, Minnesota is about two thirds the size of London and the 21st most populated US state.

That position of being relatively in the middle of America’s population league table makes it an ideal yardstick for measuring the effectiveness of court modernisation. Twelve years ago, the state jumped to the forefront of court case management technology.

The authorities implemented an early version of Thomson Reuters’ C-Track system, which state Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson described as creating a leapfrog advance of “more than a century”.

The process kicked off with functionality in the clerk’s offices at the state’s appeal court. Scheduling and opinion processing for that court and the supreme court were targeted, as was reporting functionality with statistical and detailed case data, and comprehensive search capability based on configurable data entry options.

Tools were added over the years, including a public version that provides electronic access to appropriate case information for users outside the court, case listing notifications, and e-notification, which provides electronic copies of court-generated documents to counsel, lower courts and others.

Minnesota’s experience has illustrated how a modern case management system can allow courts to process cases online. It is also seen as bringing quantitative and qualitative value by implementing more effective and efficient processes, better access to accurate case information for the bench, advocates, the media and the public.

In addition, there are the benefits of enhanced productivity and job satisfaction for court staff through using a system that is easier to learn and operate.

According to former Minnesota Supreme Court Commissioner Richard Slowes: “A well-designed case management system will deliver… more efficient data entry, more effective data retrieval, better tools, and enhanced bar and public access.”