Main content

Technology - Annual Report 2010

technology management services

A technology management service is available to courts to help them decide when and how to do network upgrades. Another menu of services offers IT security assessments to protect Judiciary data.

Case Management/Electronic Case Filing

The Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) system is now used in all district, bankruptcy, and regional courts of appeal, and in the Court of Federal Claims, the Court of International Trade, and the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. The volume of electronic filings continues to grow, with over six million documents filed each month and over 500,000 attorneys using the electronic filing feature. Attorney electronic filings now account for 40 percent of the docket entries in many district courts. In many bankruptcy courts, attorneys electronically enter 70 percent of all docket entries and 98 percent of all case openings. Working together, the AO and the courts have made continuous enhancements to CM/ECF since the first prototype versions were introduced in 1995. Some of the enhancements delivered in 2010 included a streamlined process for appellate judges to access district court records, improved capabilities for handling judges' notes, and a new full-text search capability for searching through case records. In addition, the multi-year effort to install new servers in all the courts was completed and should yield greater reliability and performance.

The project's requirements phase is scheduled to be completed by February 2012, with the design, coding, testing, and implementation phase to follow. A study also was completed that recommended a new software architecture for the Next Generation of CM/ECF.

Staff are working with the NextGen CM/ECF Project to identify requirements for inclusion in the future version of CM/ECF, including the ability to store information in data form, and retrieve the data in userspecified reports. Requirements also include the capacity to control users' access to data, in keeping with Judicial Conference privacy and access policies.

Communications Infrastructure Improvements

In collaboration with the courts, the AO continues to implement the Judiciary's next-generation telecommunications network, with converged services that transmit and prioritize data, voice, and video over a single wide-area network. With the national gateway operational in September 2010, implementation of the new network across several hundred DCN, PACERNet, and Defender Services network locations is expected by mid-2011.

The new network supports a Judiciary-wide Internet Protocol (IP) telecommunications service that digitizes calls and makes voice services accessible over the Internet or a private network instead of an analog or digital phone line. Participating courts will gain a robust replacement for their aging telephone switch equipment. The Judiciary-wide service will enhance performance, reliability, and redundancy, and could significantly reduce local telephone-related expenditures and the number of vendor solutions that courts require. Preliminary cost models suggest that the initial capital investment to build, implement, and operate the IP telecommunications system, while significant, could be recovered within five to six years, with significant cost avoidances each year thereafter. The national IP telecommunications service is a foundation for integrating electronic collaboration tools and desktop video and audioconferencing.

To help courts' local-area networks meet higher standards of performance and reliability, the AO has offered a local-area network assessment service. Conducted on-site or remotely, these assessments summarize the "health" of the LAN, including a listing of any upgrades/improvements that need to be completed prior to implementing IP telephony and/or converged services. This service is popular, with courts signed up for this service through mid-2011.

LAN Assessments have been performed each month and are scheduled well into 2011. Commonly found weaknesses involving physical, security, and network configurations were identified and shared with the courts via the J-Net. Additional training in the use of network assessment tools was widely used by the courts and is enhancing the performance and security of local networks.

In May 2010, the AO awarded a contract to provide courts with a wireless telecommunications expense management service to reduce the costs of various cell phone, smart phones, and handheld device calling plans, and the amount of staff time to process and pay separate vendor invoices. Analysis of calling plans at nine volunteer courts projects savings of approximately $170,000 annually as a single vendor takes over the management of more than 5,000 devices for these courts. The AO is funding this service in FY2011 to encourage courts to participate.

Strengthening IT Security

The Judiciary Information Technology Security Program promotes the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information associated with all forms of technology used by the Judiciary. During fiscal year 2010, the AO partnered with the courts to create several new security options within the program. These services are designed to promote security practices that are commensurate with identified risks, and include the following four services.

Court Unit IT Security Assessments

This service is designed to enhance the security posture of individual courts and the Judiciary as a whole. A team of security experts is deployed to a court to interview key personnel, conduct a technical review, and assess IT security operation through direct observation. After the assessment, the team analyzes the data, documents its observations and recommendations, and provides ongoing remediation support. Results are confidential to the court, the assessment team, and AO management.

Information System Security Assistants (ISSA) Pilot Program

This pilot will place a full-time IT security expert in the circuit executive's office as a resource to help individual court units in a circuit manage their IT security needs. To date, ISSAs have been placed in six circuits. Through weekly teleconferences facilitated by the AO, and via an online work space, the ISSAs collaborate to improve security at the circuit level and across the Judiciary. ISSAs have hosted security sessions at the circuit IT conferences in 2010, conducted circuit-wide security surveys, created and deployed a security mini-assessment service, and made numerous security awareness presentations.

IT Security Services Contract

The AO has awarded a contract that will assist the courts in their procurement of IT security services. This contract provides courts with a streamlined process for acquiring a broad range of security services, such as conducting infiltration testing, deploying laptop encryption, and designing local IT security awareness and training programs. Court units can easily acquire this specialized expertise to enhance their local security programs.

Judiciary Information Security Framework

The AO will introduce a new Judiciary Information Security Framework during 2011 to help all court units manage security threats to Judiciary information systems. Decision makers will gain a reliable and stable process for managing risk across information system life cycles.

Re-Engineering a Key Business Application

In 2010, the AO successfully strengthened and upgraded its InfoWeb system, the secure, browser-based application that supports critical business functions for the Judiciary. Used by each court in the Judiciary and all offices at the AO, InfoWeb includes approximately 50 applications that support financial, budgetary, human resource, and various other program activities. It also is used for emergency notification purposes to ensure staff safety, and provide emergency updates or directives. During FY 2010, the AO re-engineered 15 of the most critical InfoWeb applications.

Judiciary Events System

The AO Judiciary Events System is a web-based calendar that provides the courts and AO with a single, convenient location to obtain current information about Judiciary-related events sponsored by the AO, the Federal Judicial Center, the United States Sentencing Commission, and the courts, including circuit conferences and clerk meetings. Users can search and view events within specific categories and organizations. JES is widely used, averaging over 100,000 searches per month.