Two Minnesota counties are working to empower local attorneys with a completely overhauled case management system and, in doing so, starting the state on the road to software standardization.
Anoka and Dakota counties are each building a massive new system to generate, manage and archive court documents for attorneys in both counties. The systems will be compatible with Minnesotas broader CriMNet initiative, launched in 2000 with a mandate to define a single enterprise architecture for the states 1,100 jurisdictions.
The six-year, $260 million technology initiative is built around baseline standards such as XML to ensure that new systems within each jurisdiction can interact with the rest. Once completed, CriMNet will allow law enforcement officials to check a suspects name and criminal history across the state.
Currently, such a search requires law enforcement officials to call jurisdictions one by one, said Jay Stassen, the head attorney for the Civil Division of the Dakota County Attorneys Office.
But to pull this effort off, Anoka and Dakota counties need help—and a lot of it. They first turned to business analysis services provider Venturi Technology Partners in December 2002. Venturi, based in Charlotte, N.C., in turn issued an RFP (request for proposal) seeking a new case management system for the counties.
Ciber Inc., a $690 million technology consulting company based in Greenwood Village, Colo., replied to Venturis RFP in July 2003 and, after contract negotiations, signed a deal in December to design the case management system.
Under Phase 1 of the project, slated for completion by May 1, Ciber will provide the counties with a development and implementation blueprint at a fixed price. The blueprint will detail key components of the case management system, including data fields, data labels, screen views and system functionality.
Plans call for a mid-2004 application rollout, with project completion slated for the first quarter of next year, according to Nancy Mallinger, a technology project manager at the Anoka County Attorneys Office.
The systems total cost will be about $900,000, estimates Roger Sherman, director of Law & Justice Solutions at Ciber.
Cracking the Case
Cracking the Case
Ciber raided the legal industry in 2001 when it acquired Metamor Industry Solutions Inc. One of Metamors claims to fame was CRIMES (Case Records Information Management and Exchange System), a software platform for prosecutors, public defenders and civil attorneys first developed in 1992. CRIMES automates legal processes; manages and tracks cases; and generates key legal documents, including complaints, indictments, petitions, motions, subpoenas and form letters.
Cibers Law & Justice Solutions group in Sacramento, Calif., designs and maintains CRIMES, which is available for Windows, Solaris and NetWare in client/server or Web-based configurations.
Minnesotas Anoka and Dakota counties are standardizing on Cibers latest Microsoft Corp. .Net version of CRIMES. The deployment, based on Windows Server 2003 and SQL Server 2000, goes well beyond a traditional shrink-wrap software project.
“The counties have asked us to tailor CRIMES to address 35 different case types with special functionality,” said Cibers Sherman.
According to Anoka Countys Mallinger, CRIMES will optimize workflow within the counties criminal justice system; capture criminal justice information at the point of origin and share it with subsequent criminal justice business processes; decrease the counties dependence on printed documents and thereby reduce manual workload; use open standards such as XML and adhere to vertical information sharing requirements as defined in Minnesotas CriMNet enterprise architecture; and leverage existing technology investments, such as fiber optics and Ethernet networks.
After implementing CRIMES, county attorneys will be able to view all documents and digital files associated with each case from any Internet-enabled PC. Thats a key project requirement, since county attorneys shift between multiple sites and visit multiple court locations.
Anoka and Dakota have another reason for going the CriMNet/XML route to a case management overhaul. By doing so, the counties are eligible to receive state funding.
“This [schema] specification promotes efficient data exchange among … prosecutors, public defenders, courts, law enforcement agencies and corrections/probation departments,” said Dakota Countys Stassen. In the longer term, CRIMES XML capabilities may pave the way for electronic filing of complaints through the Minnesota Courts Information System, he said.
Although CRIMES is a work in progress in Minnesota, anecdotal evidence suggests the project should be completed on time and on budget. Two states—Alaska and Louisiana—have already completed statewide CRIMES deployments. Vermont is piloting now, and a fourth state, located in the Southeast, is expected to standardize on CRIMES later this year.
Joseph C. Panettieri is editorial director at the New York Institute of Technology. He can be reached at [email protected].