FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 27, 2013) — The Judicial Branch has cleared a major hurdle in its plans to develop a sophisticated court case management system and bring eFiling to Kentucky with the signing of House Bill 238. The bill authorizes the Judicial Branch to issue $28.1 million in bonds to replace Kentucky’s aging court case management system. The General Assembly passed HB 238 on March 12 and Gov. Steve Beshear signed it into law on March 22.
“A new case management system will transform the way Kentucky courts do business,” said Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr. “With our courtrooms handling nearly 1 million cases each year, almost every citizen is affected by the work of the Judicial Branch. I can’t think of any other capital technology project that will have such a positive impact on so many people statewide.
The Judicial Branch’s current case management system is running on 25-year-old technology and 10-year-old programming and is at risk for failure. The current system maintains separate databases for the trial courts in 120 counties and both appellate courts.
“The system is functionally and technically obsolete,” Minton said. “The tools used to maintain it became unsupported in 2008, leaving the entire state court database in a precarious situation. Replacing the system becomes even more urgent when you consider that our current technology cannot accommodate electronic filing and electronic records. That leaves Kentucky falling further and further behind the mainstream of court technology.”
The new system will consolidate databases and give them the ability to interact with each other. This will reduce errors, eliminate manual and redundant processes, and provide the ability to track a person through the court system. The Judicial Branch will be better able to secure current and historical court data and provide information that the executive and legislative branches, state agencies and justice partners rely on to carry out their daily business. The new system will also make it possible for Kentucky to institute eFiling.
“Kentucky is ready to join other state courts and the federal courts in adopting eFiling,” Minton said. “We’ve been laying the groundwork for this project for months and are ready to move quickly now that bonding has been approved. Our goal is to begin testing eFiling in several parts of the state before the end of the year.”
The Judicial Branch will use $3.23 million annually in agency funds to pay the 10-year debt service on the new case management system.
“Under the HB 238 plan, payment on the debt service will not require any new tax dollars or a direct appropriation,” Minton said. “Issuing bonds will let the Judicial Branch replace its case management system in a way that will have the least negative impact on the state budget.”
The Kentucky Bar Association was an important supporter of HB 238, he said.
“We want to give attorneys and justice partners better access to court case information,” Chief Justice Minton said. “The Administrative Office of the Courts recently began offering a new application called CourtNet 2.0 to KBA members. It provides online access to Kentucky civil and criminal cases and is a huge improvement from what we provided before. CourtNet 2.0 is a technological milestone for the practice of law in Kentucky and one of the first of many advances we’ll be making in court technology.”