Innovations - Annual Report 2014
The federal Judiciary continually pursues ways to improve the delivery of justice on a nationwide basis. The result has been a variety of innovations that help the courts better serve the public, increase efficiencies, and contain costs.
Development of the Next Generation of CM/ECF
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals completed its conversion to the Next Generation of the Case Management/Electronic Case Files System in October 2014. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals began its transition the same month.
NextGen software revises the appellate attorney filer interface, provides a central sign-on capability that will allow Judiciary and public filers to use a single login and password for all NextGen courts, and includes a workspace module that allows court staff to consolidate different views of case data in a single interface. The remaining courts of appeals will schedule their adoption of the software during FY 2015.
Also in FY 2015, NextGen will roll out to a small number of district and bankruptcy pilot courts. The software includes a Judge Review Packet module to allow district and bankruptcy judges and chambers staff to gather materials relevant to pending motions or other matters, three reports (one per court type) using the new Judiciary enterprise reporting tool, enhancements to the Central Violations Bureau module for district courts, and improvements to the electronic case opening process for bankruptcy courts.
Improved CJA Voucher Processing
In early 2014, a product developed by the District of Nevada was selected as the automated Criminal Justice Act (CJA) voucher processing and management system for the Judiciary. CJA eVoucher allows for electronic submission, management, and approval of CJA vouchers. It includes extensive reporting capabilities, enabling more flexible management of the CJA process by judges and court staff. It also will permit the AO’s Defender Services Office to continue responsibly monitoring and managing CJA activities.
The AO completed functional and security testing on the applications, and deployed eVoucher on centralized servers for 65 court units, including all the appellate and district courts in the First, Second, Fourth, Eighth, and Ninth Circuits. Staff from the courts and the AO will collaborate to address technical and policy issues, as well as to develop an interface for the CJA payment system. The implementation schedule goal is for full Judiciary-wide adoption of eVoucher by January 1, 2016.
Debtor Electronic Bankruptcy Noticing Piloted
This is a Judiciary cost-containment initiative.
This year, the AO, in conjunction with the Bankruptcy Noticing Working Group, began offering Debtor Electronic Bankruptcy Noticing (DeBN) through the Bankruptcy Noticing Center (BNC). DeBN is a voluntary program enabling debtors to receive court notices and orders via email. DeBN is expected to reduce the Judiciary’s noticing costs for participating debtors by 80 to 90 percent. With DeBN, the BNC electronically transmits notices and orders on the same day of retrieval from the courts, resulting in faster notice delivery to debtors; courts do not need to monitor for bounce-back emails, as the BNC automatically sends notices and orders to a debtor by paper if email delivery fails; and notices and orders are sent as PDF attachments, which can be printed, saved to a computer, or retained in an email for viewing at any time. The DeBN program currently is being piloted by five bankruptcy courts: the Central District of California, the Central District of Illinois, the District of New Jersey, the District of South Carolina, and the Middle District of Tennessee.
Interface Automates Bankruptcy Case Docketing
The AO worked closely with bankruptcy courts in FY 2014 to increase adoption of Automatic Docketing Interface (ADI) software that automates a significant portion of the docketing typically performed by the bankruptcy clerk’s office staff.
In several larger bankruptcy courts, more than 100,000 docket entries now are made through ADI each year. The reduction in time spent on routine docketing and quality control frees up clerks’ office staff to devote more time to complex tasks, research, and assistance to the public.
Improving Service to Jurors
In 2014, a new Integrated Voice Response system (IVR) feature was added to the Advanced Judicial Information System (AJIS). District courts use the 24/7-accessible AJIS IVR to remind jurors of their reporting date and time or of revised reporting times or cancellations. The AJIS IVR also allows jurors to call in, enter their juror number and confirm their instructions, or hear the status of their individual requests. The system improves customer service, increases juror attendance, and reduces jury staff workload.
The upgraded AJIS IVR adds features for selected excuse and deferral requests by phone; a desktop web-browser interface; and phone, email, and text message alerts to jurors, among other improvements. The new features are being rolled out nationally through 2015 to the 67 district courts already using the AJIS IVR, with potentially 27 additional courts installing the AJIS IVR for the first time.
Kiosks to Assist with Juror Check-In/Check-Out
A jury kiosk supporting automatic check-in and check-out of jurors is in development. The kiosk will fully integrate with the Jury Management System and include a touch screen pad, bar code reader, and magnetic strip reader. In addition, jurors will be prompted to provide missing biographical data and other information, as well as complete an exit survey. The juror kiosk will save staff time and ensure more accurate juror data.
Spanish Module Added to Bankruptcy Case Information System
In 2014, an interactive voice response system for bankruptcy case information began providing an option for callers to hear case information in Spanish.
Developed by the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts, the Multi-Court Voice Case Information System (McVCIS) is used by 93 of the nation’s 94 bankruptcy courts. The interactive system provides free public access to bankruptcy case information, including debtors’ names, methods of case disposition, bankruptcy chapter, reported assets, case status, and discharge date. With the implementation of a Spanish voice module, callers now can request and hear all case information in Spanish. In its first month, the Spanish module logged more than 300 calls.
Last year, more than 2 million callers dialed McVCIS to listen to bankruptcy case information.
New Court Financial Management System Debuts
The effort to upgrade the Judiciary’s financial accounting system expanded in 2014 when the changes necessary for court-wide implementation were completed and the Judiciary Integrated Financial Management System (JIFMS) replaced the Judiciary’s legacy financial accounting system, FAS4T. Implemented as a pilot in August 2013, JIFMS initially supported financial operations for the AO, FJC, Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, United States Sentencing Commission, Court of International Trade, Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and Court of Federal Claims. In November 2014, the pilot extended to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Implementation will continue next in the Tenth and Eleventh Circuits.
iPPS Automates Pay Projections and Budgeting
In July 2014, the InfoWeb Pay Projection System (iPPS) was released to replace the legacy Personnel Projection System (PPS) as the Judiciary’s nationally supported pay projection and budgeting system. iPPS provides numerous improvements over the legacy system, making projection and reconciliation of biweekly payroll costs more efficient and more accurate. The system relies on data from HRMIS, FAS4T/JIFMS, and InfoWeb to minimize the manual entry of data and significantly improve the payroll reconciliation process. iPPS was first deployed at the AO, and court units and FDOs migrated to the new system throughout the summer and fall of 2014. PPS was formally retired in December 2014.
Web-Based Judiciary Electronic Travel System Developed
To meet the Judiciary’s travel reimbursement and reporting needs, the AO has developed the user-friendly, web-based Judiciary Electronic Travel System (JETS). JETS will automate manual processes and add full auditability and improved internal controls to travel authorizations and payments. The Judiciary-wide system will allow near-real time obligation posting to the accounting system of record, automatic routing of travel documents, an electronic approval workflow, and the ability to make direct electronic reimbursements to travelers. JETS was deployed to the AO in early 2015, with pilot rollout to one or two courts expected in the spring of 2015.
Investment System Matched to Minors
The Registry Monitoring Group—a group of judges and court and AO staff overseeing operations of the Court Registry Investment System Improvements (CRIS) program—approved implementation of a CRIS Minors’ Fund. Six courts currently are participating.
The fund’s goal is to improve the match between investment holdings and the longer holding periods associated with each post-adjudicated minor’s case while the beneficiary awaits the age of majority. Planned enhancements will enable even further extensions of investments.
Smartphones and Tablets Simplify Video Production
The AO’s video production team is partnering with courts to help them use smartphones and tablets to produce their own low-cost educational and outreach videos. With applications to record, edit, and publish videos to the web, courts can produce videos on lectures, community events, legal training, and other events.
The Second Circuit and the Northern District of California were among the first to make use of the technology. The Fourth of July video, ”What Does Independence Mean to You?” incorporates iPad video shot by Second Circuit staff in New York City and by Northern District of California staff in San Francisco.
Courts around the country also used this technology to capture video of Constitution Day naturalization ceremonies on September 17, 2014. The AO is using this production technique for some of its own videos intended for court and public viewing on JNet and uscourts.gov.