Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Judicial Council Unanimously Votes to Stop CCMS Deployment
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
The Judicial Council of California yesterday pulled the plug on its ambitious computer project, which was intended to electronically connect every courthouse in the state but cost taxpayers more than $500 million.
The council voted unanimously to immediately halt funding the California Case Management System, a project that was nearly 10 years in the making. Members blamed the bleak economic climate in California, saying the project is economically unsustainable while court operating budgets are being slashed.
The project was the subject of a scathing state audit and vocal criticism from a growing number of trial court judges, in particular the leadership of the Los Angeles Superior Court. Criticism became increasingly vocal as initial cost estimates ballooned from $260 million in 2004 to $2 billion today.
The council, following an all-day meeting in San Francisco, voted to spend $8.6 million to install what can still be salvaged from the failed project. “We need to spend that to know what our options are,” said Santa Barbara Judge James Herman, a member of the council and chairman of its CCMS Internal Committee.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said in a statement:
“What we do best in the judicial branch is to weigh the evidence and make reasoned and deliberate decisions,” said Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye. “The council’s decision to stop deployment of CCMS was responsible and prudent in view of our budget situation and the facts we gathered on the actual costs of deployment. CCMS works. Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources to deploy it.”
Fourth District Court of Appeal Justice Douglas P. Miller, chair of the council’s Executive and Planning Committee, said in an e-mail to judicial officers and court administrators, a copy of which was obtained by the MetNews, that the council would “continue supporting the operation and maintenance of [interim CCMS products being used in seven trial courts] and work to assist other courts with failing systems.”
Scrapping CCMS is not the end of the vision of now-retired Chief Justice Ronald M. George and others for a statewide approach to courtroom technology, Miller said.
“As significant as the decision is to end CCMS, in my view the more important decision coming out of the council meeting today is the council’s direction to develop a new branch technology vision and roadmap,” the justice wrote. He told recipients of his e-mail that Herman “will be holding meetings and soliciting your ideas for bringing California’s courts into the digital age” and said he hoped that those on both sides of the CCMS debate “will contribute to creating a new plan for statewide court technology.”
The project was scrapped after only six of California’s 58 counties received significant upgrades.
The Alliance of California Judges, which claims more than 200 members and was created because of the growing frustration over the system’s costs, called for an investigation into the $560 million already spent on the project.
Sacramento Superior Court Maryanne Gilliard, a director of the alliance, said her group was worried that the council “has not truly and completely abandoned this failed project.”
She said the cost overruns occurred because proponents had been given a blank check instead of being accountable, and that “those responsible for this debacle must be identified and appropriate action taken.”
As initially envisioned a decade ago, anyone in any county could access real-time information on just about any case anywhere in the state. Lawyers would have been able to file court papers electronically and state Department of Justice officials and other law enforcement agencies could determine with a few keystrokes whether suspects in custody in one county had other restraining orders, warrants or other outstanding court actions pending against them.
The project was supposed to be the crowning achievement of George’s quest to drag the nation’s largest court system into the 21st century.
George retired at the beginning of last year, and the state’s computer court system remains a virtual Tower of Babel. The 58 counties still use a combined 70 computer systems to help mete out and keep track of justice in California, advocates of CCMS noted.
Miller said the project was scrapped “not because of the critics but because of the economic structure.” Herman said the council felt the economic climate could not support spending any more money to complete deployment.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company