Taking postage online
With the new system, Comery said the clerk begins by accessing Pitney Bowes Label Number Software on his or her PC and then copies the case number from the case management software and enters the ZIP code where the letter is going. The clerk then uses the Pitney Bowes LPS-1 PC Label Printer to print a bar-code label encoded with this information and applies it along with a certified mail sticker (which come in packets from the USPS) to a regular business envelope (saving approximately 95 cents per envelope). Finally, the clerk walks this envelope across the room to the Pitney Bowes DM5550 Series Mailing System, scans both bar codes and then mails the envelope in the normal fashion. Recent figures show a continuing steep decline for U.S. Postal Service first-class mail, thanks to increased e-mail usage and e-commerce.Click here to read more.According to Platt, the bar-code information is transmitted via a modem attached to the Mailing System workstation using Pitney Bowes IntelliLink technology."PB then uploads the information to USPS nightly," Platt said. "The USPS provides files back to PB four times per day with delivery information on any Delivery Confirmation, Signature Confirmation, Certified Mail and e-Return Receipt transactions which have been electronically processed through a DM series mailing system." Platt said that when defendants receive the certified letter from the court, they sign a form provided by the carrier. He said this form is then scanned by the post office, after which the paper form is destroyed. It is this scanned version that the court eventually receives in a PDF file. Rocky Road court personnel can then view updates using the My Account feature at pb.com with the latest delivery status information. "If the customer wants up-to-the-minute information, then they can click on the tracking number on My Account and PB will make an API call to USPS to get any updates since the last file was sent from the USPS," Platt said. If court personnel need to track this information, Comery said they can sign onto the PB Web site. In fact, one person is responsible for checking the progress of outstanding return receipts twice a week. When the signature is received, the clerk enters the signature date in the appropriate file in the case management software, and, once a week, the court downloads tracking information into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Every Monday, a court clerk downloads signature files (the equivalent of the old green card) onto the courts system. If Comery needs to view a signature, she can access the case management system and locate the case number and the date the summons was delivered. Then, using this information, she can search the PDF files for the signature. The court has a daily, weekly and monthly backup system to ensure that electronic information wont be lost, and court personnel keep copies of the backups off-site, Comery said. Also, Pitney Bowes maintains a duplicate set of records for additional backup. Those records are kept for seven years, the time period mandated by courts for documents related to a case. Pitney Bowes began working with the USPS shortly after the USPS introduced e-Return Receipt in September, 2004, Platt said. The two worked together to create a product line of electronic postage meters that would facilitate the e-Return Receipt system. The postal service didnt have any products to allow businesses to take advantage of the new electronic system. Comery said that the electronic system devised by Pitney Bowes and the USPS is not only more efficient but that, at $1.35 each, the electronic system saves the court 50 cents per transaction. One additional challenge: getting the Supreme Court of Ohio to approve this as a legal method of service. And Comery said that even with approval by the state Supreme Court, individual district courts were free to use e-Return Receipt or not. In the near future, Comery said the court hopes to integrate the Pitney Bowes system with their CourtView case management system so that there is no need to copy case numbers or maintain separate PDF signature files. The court is already working with Maximus and Pitney Bowes to make this happen. For now, the court will continue to do some work manually, with the ultimate goal, according to Mike Bracken, the courts system administrator, to have seamless integration across the two systems. Ron Miller is a freelance writer based in Amherst, Mass. He can be reached at email@example.com. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis of technologys impact on government and politics.