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Saturday, June 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Dallas Plunges Ahead With New Court Software

DALLAS (CN) - Dallas County leaders approved $1.8 million in additional funding for a controversial criminal court case-management system that critics say is too expensive and full of glitches.

By 3-2 vote Tuesday morning, the Dallas County Commissioners Court voted to continue funding its share of the TechShare Court Project.

The case management system is being developed in conjunction with Travis and Tarrant counties through the Conference of Urban Counties.

An outside contractor the three counties hired in 2012 has gone bankrupt, forcing the CUC to hire its former employees to finish writing the system's code.

Dallas County has already poured $8.8 million into the project, raising the ire of all 31 county criminal court judges, who say the system is not ready for launch.

The judges submitted a letter to county commissioners this month, urging the commissioners to ditch the still-in-development system in favor of Odyssey, a more stable and cheap case management system the county uses for its civil courts.

Odyssey is owned by Plano-based private vendor Tyler Technologies and is emerging as the case management system of choice in cities, counties and school districts nationwide.

Catherine McGovern, of Dallas, told the commission the TechShare software "has never been used by anyone successfully" and has serious issues.

"One side says we've already spent $8 million so let's not throw it down the drain, the other side says it doesn't work," she said during public comments. "That's reason enough to hold off and take a look."

Commissioner John Wiley Price defended TechShare, saying the juvenile court components of the system are scheduled to go online this summer.

"Backing out now is not the right course of action," he said.

Price was joined by commissioners Mike Cantrell and Theresa Daniel.

Daniel was confident TechShare "is the better software system." She said all deadlines for the software's development have been met.

Daniel noted that evaluations of the code revealed "there are no fatal" flaws in the system. She touted the importance of the county "controlling our own destiny," developing its own system rather than being at the mercy of outside vendors.

Commissioner Elba Garcia voted against the additional funding, along with County Judge Clay Jenkins.

Garcia said she was persuaded by the criminal court judges and court staff complaints about TechShare. She also noted the burden on county employees continuing the development of TechShare while also carrying out their other elected duties.

"I can never support this in my own dental office," she said. "I could never keep a [computer] system that my employees and colleagues could not like."

She said the county "is now picking up the pieces" of the system because it "could not prove itself in the market" and lost to competing case management systems.

"Business is business," Garcia said.

Jenkins said he was concerned that Travis County may abandon TechShare and recommended tabling the vote to get more information on Tarrant and Travis counties' plans for the system.

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