(CN) - Despite instructions from legislators to stop spending money on a controversial software project, a court technology committee is looking to pour more money into the project long thought dead.
A key administrator noted the political risk in spending additional hundreds of thousands of dollars on the aging Court Case Management System used by only a few trial courts. The great majority of trial courts, said the administrator, could see the spending as "enhanced funding for a project deemed cancelled."
In more freewheeling language, judges slammed the software as "a money-sucking beast" that deserves "a stake through its heart," thence to be "dragged out into the sunshine to rot."
The renewed life of the CCMS project was sparked by a request from two courts, Ventura and San Diego, made to the Court Technology Committee, one of the powerful court committees that work closely with the Administrative Office of the Courts and meet in sessions closed to the press and public.
The committee's chair, Santa Barbara Judge James Herman, then sent a letter earlier this month to the five courts that use an interim version of the software, San Diego, Ventura, Sacramento, Orange and San Joaquin, asking if they would like to "enhance" the system for a cost of somewhere from $317,000 to $381,000.
Specifically, the proposal would expand the case types that can be included in the third version of the software to include family law and juvenile dependency cases.
Over its decade-long development, the expense of the software project has been underestimated by administrative office officials and wound up costing more than a half-billion dollars in public money.
The project was supposed to be terminated last year as a result of a vote in the rule-making arm of the court system, the Judicial Council, saying money could only be spent to maintain the system in the few courts that use the software.
Herman with the technology committee defended the proposal for expansion by saying the Legislature had not foreclosed expansion of the interim version of the IT system. He also pointed out that the committee has not made its final decision and is still in discussion with the individual trial courts.
In an earlier interview concerning alternate court software, Herman argued that the IT project had in fact been successful. "CCMS was a technically successful, completed product," said Herman. "What defeated CCMS was we didn't have the money."
Orange County Judge Robert Moss, who is also a member of the technology committee, echoed that point in an interview this week.
"It's all about money," said Moss. "The three courts that are against it don't plan to use V3 for other case types and they don't want the limited resources that exist to maintain V3 to be diluted by expanding. It's not an irrational thing, but it's a dilemma because the trial courts are not in agreement."
At its Monday meeting, said Moss, the technology committee decided to go back to the courts to see what funds each can afford to contribute, if any. "We're looking into whether the courts would have the ability to share the cost."
The five courts that use the software had polar-opposite reactions to the expansion idea.
Sacramento, Orange County and San Joaquin are strongly opposed. Ventura and San Diego think it is a good idea.