Planning for next phase of MDEC roll-out begins
With the MDEC pilot in Anne Arundel County set to start next year, planning has begun for the next phase. The question: where will MDEC launch next? The answer: the Eastern Shore and Baltimore County courts, which will receive MDEC following the completion of the pilot program in Anne Arundel County.
The MDEC Advisory Committee, which oversees the implementation of the state’s new electronic case management system, announced the roll-out plan earlier this spring. The committee made the decision to move next to the Eastern Shore, then to Baltimore County, based on a JIS recommendation to establish a “reliable repeatable process.” The goal is to migrate from the pilot to a larger set of installations in a short period of time in order to test and refine the methodologies used in the pilot. That requires smaller jurisdictions with Judicial Circuits and Districts logistically comparable and in sufficient number to facilitate the necessary validation. The nine counties of the Eastern Shore represent the best sites for this purpose.
After the Eastern Shore sites, Baltimore County will be the next large jurisdiction to receive the MDEC system. It was selected because it has the largest number of District Court locations and because it has the only large circuit court fully subscribed to the present UCS case management system, making data conversion and interoperability easier.
Based on the experience gained in implementing the system in larger and smaller courts, JIS will propose an implementation schedule for the remaining jurisdictions.
MDEC pilot will include all four levels of court in Anne Arundel County
Maryland’s appellate courts are among the forerunners in adopting the state’s new electronic case management system. That’s because when the MDEC pilot begins next year in Anne Arundel County, all four levels of Maryland’s courts will get the MDEC case management system at the same time: Anne Arundel District Court, Anne Arundel Circuit Court, the Court of Special Appeals and the Court of Appeals.
When the pilot launches, the appellate courts will begin offering e-filing of appellate cases, including briefs. Until all trial courts have MDEC in place, the appellate courts will use two methods for transferring case information: electronically for trial courts once MDEC has been implemented in those jurisdictions; and by paper, as is currently done, for those trial courts not yet on MDEC.
Why start in Anne Arundel County?
The courts in Anne Arundel County were chosen to pilot the new system for several reasons. First, because of their proximity to the Administrative Office of the Courts and District Court Headquarters, the communication between the courts and the implementation team is enhanced. The proximity means that preparing for and testing the transfer of cases from the lower courts to the appellate courts will also be easier. Second, because the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County uses the UCS case management system used by 22 other jurisdictions, the Circuit Court pilot experience will be more easily replicable to the next phase of the implementation. Third, Anne Arundel County presents an optimal size for a pilot program because it is a larger jurisdiction, but not too large. Added to those reasons, the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County had been considering implementing its own electronic filing program even before plans for the MDEC system developed. The initiative and enthusiasm on the part of judges and staff in both the Circuit and District Courts for ushering in an electronic court environment makes them an ideal site for the pilot program.
New rules about MDEC adopted
On May 1, the Court of Appeals adopted several rules that address core issues about MDEC. The changes, proposed by the Rules Committee after asking for input from the public, deal with electronic filing and case management. Under the new rules:
The complete rules order, including Title 20 (Electronic Filing and Case Management), is available online on the Judiciary’s website, www.mdcourts.gov/rules/rodocs/ro176.pdf.