Movement toward a unified electronic filing system continues throughout the state. It is an unfortunate reality that electronic filing is not a stand-alone system. Its functionality is highly dependent on a reliable case management system that provides the foundation for the vast majority of court automation projects. The Supreme Court has made great strides in implementing a robust case management system in the courts to provide the solid foundation as a prerequisite of electronic filing. Those efforts will continue as a progression toward the ultimate goal of a unified electronic filing system statewide.
In 2000, the Wyoming Legislature enacted legislation creating the judicial systems automation (JSA) account and imposed a ten-dollar fee on court filings (court automation fee) to be paid into the JSA account. The purpose of the fee was to move the courts toward a more automated and uniform way of doing business throughout the state.
The first phase in court automation, implementation of an electronic case management, eFiling, and public access system in the Supreme Court, went smoothly. The contractor selected, LT Court Tech, a small company and leading vendor in appellate case management systems. The system, C-Track, came online in the Supreme Court and mandatory electronic filing in the Supreme Court began by mid-2008. Although there have been some tweaks to the software since, it functions quite well.
The next major step in court automation, implementation of a uniform case management system in the district courts, commenced in 2009. At that time, the individual clerks of district court utilized four different electronic case management systems, which made centralized data retrieval impossible. The decision was made to adopt C-Track as the starting point for the district court case management system. A dedicated group of clerks met at least four hours each week for months to assist in development of the district court case management system. In the meantime, the small company which had set up the Supreme Court system was sold to a much larger multi-national corporation.
The district court case management system, WyUser, was completed, tested in three pilot courts in 2012, and eventually began to be rolled out in all of the district courts by spring 2014. There were some immediate positives. All of the district courts were on a single system, which provided a foundation for data retrieval. Additionally, district court judges could now access files from their own districts (including those covering more than one county) electronically, drastically reducing the need to ship paper files around the state or haul them from the clerks’ offices to judges’ chambers. With full implementation of WyUser, the Supreme Court had hoped to test electronic filing in the district courts by mid-2015, and the legislature was informed accordingly based on the information that was available at the time.
Unfortunately, things did not work out as anticipated. Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) staff spent countless hours attempting to improve the system. However, by the spring of 2016, it became clear WyUser simply would not meet with the needs of the district courts.
Since that time, the Supreme Court has entered into contracts with Justice Systems Inc. (JSI) to implement a new case management system in the district courts. JSI is a tested and proven vendor specializing in the development and implementation of case management systems for trial courts. It has provided the case management system in Wyoming circuit courts since 2003 with great success. In addition, fifteen of the district courts utilized the JSI system prior to migrating to WyUser.
The Court has worked with various committees since January 2017 to tailor this off-the-shelf system for the needs of Wyoming district courts. This is an intensive process requiring countless hours devoted to the task by both AOC staff and district court clerks.
Steps to Implement eFiling
Implementation of the eFiling system in district and chancery courts requires:
- Configuration of the system with the assistance of the vendor, clerks of court, the Joint Court Automation Committee and the AOC;
- Creation of eFiling court rules and standards; and
- Clarification of statutes to clearly identify access by filers, judges, court staff, clerks, participants, and the public.
The tentative timeline for completion of the tasks to implement eFiling is shown here. EFiling activities, including configuration, migration and training, occur simultaneously with statutory and rule preparation undertaken by the Legislature and Judicial Branch.