This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.
Local IT Initiatives Funded for FY 2008
Four information technology projects developed by federal court staff
will receive funding in fiscal year 2008 from the Edwin L. Nelson Local
IT Initiatives Grant Program. The IT grant program encourages and
promotes local court technology innovations that can be shared with
other courts. For FY 2008, there was a specific interest in grant
proposals supporting judges' work.
Michigan Eastern Criminal Information Repository (MECIR)
The 2008 grant will allow the District Court and the Probation Office
for the Eastern District of Michigan to develop the Michigan Eastern
Criminal Information Repository. MECIR will replace the current manual
process with a web-based application that develops the presentence
reports provided to judges prior to sentencing. It also will enhance the
existing automated system that creates the Judgment and Commitment
order prepared by the courtroom deputy.
MECIR's centralized repository allows the extraction of case
information from the Case Management system and defendant information
from the Probation and Pretrial Services Automated Case Tracking System
(PACT). Defendant information received from the U.S. Marshals Service is
updated in MECIR, and automatically pushed to the PACT system. Judges,
U.S. attorneys, defense counsel, and chambers staff are automatically
alerted to each phase of the system. In addition, every transaction is
time-stamped in the system to provide auditing of all processes and
MECIR will provide efficient data-handling, eliminate data
redundancy, maximize data integrity, improve communication flow, and add
flexibility in the preparation of reports and documents.
Pro Se "Three Strikes" Database
With a FY 2008 Local Initiatives grant, the Ninth and Fifth Circuits
will combine their efforts to design a tracking system for all pro se
prisoner-filed cases dismissed for being frivolous or malicious, or for
failure to state a claim for relief. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g),
prisoners who have three or more such dismissals may be denied requests
for future in forma pauperis funding. Pro se clerks will be able to use
this database as a Judiciary-wide reference tool to screen litigants who
may have accumulated "strikes" in one or more federal court districts
anywhere in the country.
Currently, the Ninth Circuit has a database that went live early in
2007, and the Fifth Circuit has a tracking system, created by the
Eastern District of Texas in the mid-1990s, that monitors all Fifth
Circuit prisoner litigants who have filed lawsuits deemed to have been
frivolous. The circuits will collaborate on requirements and user needs,
and share design and technical tasks to complete the project.
Automation Trainer's Community of Practice
The District Court for the Western District of Missouri, the District
Court for the District of Nebraska, and the Bankruptcy Court for the
Western District of Wisconsin have proposed a centralized storage place
for existing desk side tutorials and education programs created within
the courts. In this online Community of Practice, existing training
materials could be shared and local experts or knowledge sources
identified. The website will provide a place to discuss training issues
and trends and post web logs about current training events, in addition
to serving as a clearinghouse of materials and ideas that will reduce
duplication of effort and encourage collaboration.
The Local Initiatives grant will fund the purchase of server
hardware; the installation and configuration of community software for
resource storage, discussion forums, e-mail subscription capabilities,
member profiles and blogs; and the migration of the existing community
data to the Judiciary's secure Data Communications Network.
FAS4T Security Profile/Court Inventory Application
The District Court for the Northern District of New
York, and the district's Office of Probation will receive a grant in FY
2008 to expand the capabilities of an automated inventory database
application and a program that would generate self-populating FAS4T security profiles for all FAS4T
users. Both the database and program were originally funded by a FY
2006 Local Initiatives IT grant. Currently, 73 court units use the
inventory database application.
Enhancements to the applications, prompted by court
requests, include PDA functionality, an inventory import tool, an
updated documentation and installation package, a comprehensive audit of
all FAS4T users based upon assignment of authorities and
roles, an ability to audit internal controls based upon duties not
captured within FAS4T; tracking of audit histories with
details on what issues were discovered and how they were resolved; and
auditing by court unit type. The additional grant will allow the
Northern District to build upon the initial success of the project and
significantly enhance capabilities.