In 2021 the conversation about court automation is more vivid than ever. Depending on the problems different courts face, the conversation varies. These problems may be a growing backlog of cases, increasing crime rates, court schedule that is often being disrupted, etc. Each problem has a unique manifestation and its solving can be easily achieved by implementing a single court software solution. But is it enough? Should the court problems be solved with a short-term mindset that addresses the managing of caseload or a more strategised approach is needed?
One of the most commons issues in courts is the backlog of cases. But a growing backlog is often an effect of other causes. The subproblems may be poor training of staff or communication gap between the court and other institutions, between the court and the public, etc. When we try to address a complex problem that has relations to many other subproblems, we start talking about long-term court automation projects. Which is something bigger than just looking at single court case tracking software or court scheduling products.
The court automation project addresses all of the problems and subproblems that accompany the identified court issues and delivers the solution as a wholesome court management platform. It is easy to deduce that the success of court management automation depends on complex variables. That’s why certain questions must be answered in order to identify the problems that require the highest priority for solving.
The democratic justice system is the responsibility of the government. The governments invest in their judiciary sector but not always the benefits bring durable results. That’s why governments should approach very actively the discussion about court automation projects.
These discussions and debates usually include Justice ministers, Judges, court administrations, IT leaders, financial experts, etc. The purpose of the debate is to clarify the goals of digital court transformation, the measurement of successful implementation, future steps, etc. These discussions are supposed to highlight the needs of the courts – do they need to improve efficiency with court automation software, do they need a court case tracking software or they need a full court management platform that combines various judicial solutions in one place?
If a government can define clear goals and objectives for court automation, then this is a good indicator that the country is willing to fully support the digital transformation efforts.
If the government leaders are not able to identify the objectives they want to achieve with court automation, then perhaps digitalising justice is not going to be approached with the desired depth. But the lack of understanding is usually a symptom of other solvable problems.
The success of court automation depends on the technological capacity of the justice system. If the judicial institutions can make technology decisions, then that will make the implementation of new technology an easy process. But if not, then things would be harder.
The technological questions also capture the local internet connectivity, the licenses for essential software products – are those problems solved on a central level or every court makes individual decisions?
The addressing of these questions is important before implementing a court management platform because their answers define the technological capacity. If the capacity is not enough to sustain an automated court system, then all of the efforts for implementing such will be for nothing. A good analysis of the technological state of the judicial institutions is crucial for the design of court automation projects and it should always be addressed with high priority.
How the success of the court automation projects is measured? By comparing the data before and after the automation. But yet, data is a very broad term. What data should be used to measure the performance of automation in the court?
That’s why annual budget data is required to assess what percentage of the budget is allocated to IT. The goal of implementing a court management system is to achieve long term cost efficiency. It’s important to keep the cost of court procedures below a certain level.
If the court automation project is too expensive for the judicial institutions it doesn’t mean that they should stick to the old ways. A court case management system or a court scheduling software may be enough to help a judicial institution to improve the processes. That’s what the assessment based on data is done for. To try to come up with the most sensible and reasonable first steps to digital court transformation.
Related: The benefits brought by court automation in the justice sector
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