SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The Judicial Council of California voted today to use money from the state’s trial court trust fund so that San Luis Obispo’s superior court can create a case management system that is expected to use parts from a controversial IT project terminated in March.
The Council made available up to $3.36 million from the trust fund for San Luis Obispo to develop a case management system, but the amount is contingent on a final state budget and level of the county’s fund balances at the end of the fiscal year, June 30.
The vote came after Judge James Herman of Santa Barbara County, who chairs the system’s Internal Committee, described the unwinding that has taken place since the Council terminated development of the Court Case Management System, or CCMS, which took more than 10 years and cost the state a half-billion dollars, but was only ever implemented in a few counties.
Committee member Judge Robert Moss of Orange County contributed to the review, saying, “The HMS CCMS has been hit by the iceberg and sunk. We have 58 lifeboats out there. Some have crewmen on board to row and oar and some don’t. What do we do? We develop a recommendation to the council of where we should go with technology.”
“We go to the CCMS reuse, and this has become kind of the 800-pound gorilla because of the money that’s available to see what we can salvage from CCMS. We have this on the front burner,” Moss said.
“We need to convince the legislature that we need $5 million to do this work, and that’s what we’re trying to do first,” Moss told the Council, adding that there are 19 components of CCMS “that might be salvageable.”
Judge Herman said his committee is negotiating with Deloitte Consulting, the AOC’s contractor on the CCMS project, to gain access to software code that Deloitte has maintained is proprietary, but without which, Herman said, it will be tough to salvage the useable bits from the fourth and last iteration of CCMS, known as V4.
“We’re basically going in two directions in terms of how we leverage the V4 technology and its components, which includes document management, E-filing, E-exchange of information, as well as the public and stakeholder portals. One track is this information is of no cost to the trial courts,” Judge Herman said.
“The other track we’re pursuing, is there any vendor interest in a business relationship that involves V4 licensing arrangement, purchase agreement, etc.?” Judge Herman said. “Because, as we do know, everyone that’s looked at V4 said that it will perform as designed and it’s a very good project.”
Chief Justice Tank Cantil-Sakauye commented, “I think this is very exciting. We’re able to learn from past incidents but able to move forward and bring everyone along. It just sounds like we’re making the best of a situation.”
Herman said that the AOC had drafted a request for proposal for San Luis Obispo to use in seeking a vendor to help it create a functions case management system.
“San Luis Obispo is in desperate states from a Case Management System and been left out to dry on the decision on March 27 and it’s what the council asked to the committee to do in terms of looking for a technical solution for San Luis Obispo case management-wise,” Herman said.
The council was apparently swayed by San Luis Obispo’s plight. The county has relied for more than a decade on the promise of a functional case management system, foregoing the progress other counties have made with alternatives.
Judge Stephen Baker of Shasta County, another Internal Committee member, said of San Luis Obispo, “They have the need. They detrimentally relied upon the council’s assurance that they’re early adopter, they were a team player in the development of CCMS, and did product testing for us, and most importantly this is not a bridge too far.”
“We made that promise when we pulled the rip cord on CCMS. Today we need to make good on it,” Judge Baker said.
San Luis Obispo County Presiding Judge Barry LaBarbera described the difficulties for court staff and for the public caused by the system that the county has cobbled together over the years.
Judge LaBarbera also had praise for CCMS. “The result was we built a reputation for good hard work, good organization, and we were able to, I believe, get V4 ready. I think it did work, the Chief mentioned it worked, other people mentioned it worked and for budget reasons and other reasons it’s gone.”
“We’ve been without a system for 12 years. Really dysfunctional for the last 6. We don’t have a civil system at all,” Judge LaBarbera said.
“We believe that we can put together an integrated system,” Judge LaBarbera said, but “it’s going take a competitive process. I would be surprised if it came near the $3.3 million or $6 million. But we are frugal and will not spend a nickel that doesn’t need to be spent.”
The Administrative Office of the Courts and the CCMS Internal Committee, which changed its name today to the Technology Committee, gave the JCC three choices for dealing with San Luis Obispo’s case management system.
One was to provide no funding and the other was to provide $3.36 million with relatively few conditions. The council chose option three, which provides $3.36 million but makes the amount contingent on an enacted state budget and SLO’s balance at the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
After the vote, Judge LaBarbera praised the effectiveness of his court’s staff, saying they would be pleased that they can continue to implement at least parts of V4. With the March cancellation of CCMS, he said they were “beginning to feel they’d wasted their time.”
Council members voiced support for funding San Luis Obispo, but warned that other counties will see it as an invitation to come to the Council with hat in hand.
Judge David Wesley of Los Angeles County said, “There are other courts that have delayed their IT systems waiting for CCMS also that are going to be coming to you and saying give me money but you’re not going to have the money. So you’re making the choice here. I am not saying it’s a bad choice, but you’re making a choice where other courts will come to you and you should be prepared for them to come to you and for them to say, why give them, why not me.”