Use of I.T in Courts

Court Purposes and Processes:

Information Technology must honor due process and equal protection, independence and impartiality, and the roles that courts and other organizations in the justice system properly play. For example, technology applications should not give prosecutors better access to information than criminal defense lawyers, either public or private. Lawyers representing corporations, the wealthy, and the poor and the self-represented all must be served by court technology.

Information Technology encompasses the people who use the system, their interdependent relationships and workflows, the information they provide to the application, and the interdependent but conflicting norms and business system that guide their actions. Even in courts implementing curative problem solving paradigms, the judicial process presupposes adversaries and conflicting roles as a means to finding the truth and achieving justice. As a result, analysis and redesign of case flow and other work processes that precede implementation necessarily generate conflict. Judges who oversee this process should ensure that it is balanced and that the process and what it produces reflect court purposes and responsibilities. Responsible judges understand that technology must support both judicial independence and impartiality -- the proper balance between the branches of government and parties to litigation-- and their interdependence and need to work with others. They do not allow technology to compromise the judicial process or bedrock political and legal principles.


Every judge must possess at least a basic understanding of technology, including both its capabilities and its limitations. The line between vision and illusion is a fine one. Effective judges are realistic about what technology can do, what it will cost, how long it will take to implement, and what is involved in its maintenance and upgrade.

The knowledge required to manage technology and its rate of change is considerable. Court leaders must know the fundamentals and ensure that they, and their technical staff, keep current with how other organizations, including courts, are successfully using technology. To establish and to manage expectations about technology, court leaders must know what options exist, how they are being used in courts and other organizations, and how technology is evolving. Only then can they oversee staff to ensure that the most appropriate solutions are implemented. No one can manage what he or she does not adequately understand.

Technology Management

Too often, inadequate management of technology and technical staff cause technology failure. Poorly run courts do not take full advantage of technology. Information Technology requires alignment of budget; judge, line, and technical staff and their training; equipment; and caseflow and other business processes. People, budgets, workflows, and applications cannot go in their own separate directions.

Application of technology to court and justice operations requires that court and justice system partners work together and at a high level of detail. Automation imposes greater structure on business processes and information exchange requiring communication and collaboration to avoid unproductive conflict.

For technologists to manage technology, court leaders must manage the technologists, their relationships, and the technology environment. The technical staff must be competent professionals and work well with others both inside and outside the court. If not peculiar, good technical staff are different from others in the court. They speak a different language and seek and sometimes need considerable independence. Their talents and skill are, however, absolutely crucial. Effective leaders know how to align technology and technologists with the court and the justice system. Judges must encourage, nurture, and manage Information Technology projects. To do this, while at the same time maintaining current operations, they must deal with budget, project scope, human resources, schedules, financial management, quality, communications, risk, and procurement.

Information Technology must not disrupt either the proper balance between the branches, the balance between parties to litigation, or bedrock legal principles. Bedrock legal principles include due process and equal protection, the adversarial system, equal access, and independent and impartial judicial decisions.

  • Knowledge of the Purposes and Responsibilities of Courts Curriculum Guidelines and how they apply to Information Technology Management;
  • Knowledge of accepted purposes underlying the management of cases from filing to disposition and how they relate to court technology: 1) produce individual justice in individual cases; 2) give the appearance of individual justice in individual cases; 3) provide a forum for the resolution of legal disputes; 4) protect individuals from the arbitrary use of governmental power; 5) create a formal record of legal status; 6) deter criminal behavior; 7) rehabilitate persons convicted of crime; and 8) separate some convicted people from society;
  • Knowledge of how courts function and their fundamental work processes for all case types;
  • Knowledge of the importance and the nature of court records for all case types;
  • Knowledge of the jurisdiction, structure, and management of courts and how they affect decision making about resource acquisition and allocation for court technology;
  • Knowledge of the culture of the judiciary and the political and fiscal environment in which the court system and its constituent courts are imbedded;
  • Ability to manage resource allocation and acquisition in ways that preserve judicial independence, essential judicial processes, and productive relationships with the other branches of government and justice agencies;
  • Knowledge of other organizations in the justice system and how their competing roles affect intergovernmental working relationships, information exchange, and systems integration;
  • Skill in ensuring that technology does not create an imbalance either between branches of government or between the parties to litigation and their lawyers;
  • Knowledge of the growth of self-represented parties and the issues the self- represented present to the use of court technology;
  • Ability to reengineer court and justice processes to take maximum advantage of technology without disrupting fundamental legal principles and rights, including due process and equal protection, independent and impartial decisions and processes, and privacy and confidentiality.
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