Article of the Week
“High-Tech Solutions in the Wake of the Budget Crisis” by Kiri Torre
The Superior Court is facing unprecedented budget cuts, forcing the court to reduce our staffing at all levels. Thus far, we have eliminated 78 permanent and 39 temporary positions to help meet our $7.4 million permanent budget cut. We are forced to reduce the Clerk’s Office public service hours yet again by closing our doors one hour earlier — now at 2 p.m. — every day to allow the staff time to process court documents in time for the next court hearing. We have been told that the budget crisis will continue into the next fiscal year.
So how do we balance the budget while still providing critical services to the public?
In the wake of the budget crisis and reduced staffing levels, we are refocusing our efforts on technological solutions that will make our operations more efficient. They will also provide the public with information and assistance tailored to address specific case types and frequently used procedures and processes. In many cases, enhanced online and telephonic services will allow customers to take care of their needs without making a trip to the courthouse. Following are highlights of the priorities for 2010:
TELEPHONE SYSTEM UPGRADE: The new system will provide a menu of choices to obtain information 24/7 without the need to talk to a clerk. Options will include explaining how to obtain forms and self help information from the website, as well providing basic information on office hours, directions to the court, jury reporting instructions, and parking information.
E-CITATIONS: Allowing electronic submission of traffic citations from participating agencies to the court will eliminate manual data entry and expedite processing times, thus freeing up staff time to attend to other needs of the public.
JURY SYSTEM IMPROVEMENTS: Such improvements will provide enhanced web access to allow jurors to postpone service, submit requests for disqualification and excuses and instructions regarding how to submit supporting documentation and request an ADA accommodation.
CREDIT CARD PAYMENTS AT THE PUBLIC COUNTER: Litigants will soon have the opportunity to pay by credit card at the public counters in addition to website and telephone credit card payment options.
EXPANSION OF INFORMATION ON THE COURT’S WEBSITE: The court is in the process of redesigning and enhancing its website to include: basic information and answers to frequently asked questions in each case type; a list of all court forms and locally available forms packets; plain language instructions for filling out family law forms; and a new, extremely comprehensive information package to help people file, defend, and collect judgments in small claims cases.
ELECTRONIC FILING OF GENERAL CIVIL DOCUMENTS: We are focused on addressing the system issues to allow us to implement full e-filing in general civil cases. We will keep you posted on our progress.
ENHANCED DATA COLLECTION AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT TOOLS: We are building customized databases to track and report on: projects that implement our strategic and operational plans; all legal publications by location and type (chambers, central, and personal libraries); all local court forms and forms packages, as well as the interrelationship among all of our local court rules, forms, policies, and procedures.