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A judicial dash(board) of innovation

Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge John J. DiMotto

Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge John J. DiMotto

A new feature of Wisconsin’s court information tracking software allows judges to find all the information they need on a case with a minimum of effort.

Previously, when judges logged on to the Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP) website, they often had to hunt for docket information tied to a specific attorney and did not have an ideal sense for how long some cases took to close.

Implementation of the new program, called Judicial Dashboard, began in July and allows judicial members throughout the state to access their court calendars, view documents awaiting electronic signatures and track their disposition of cases all on one screen.

Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge John J. DiMotto said the new program is a good way to determine whether cases are “getting a little old” and if so, why.

Judicial Dashboard also provides some oversight for a judge who might be unaware that a pending case had been closed.

“I’ve had a number of cases where my office contacted litigants and asked them why there hasn’t been anything done in six months and they said, ‘Judge, we settled that, didn’t anyone tell you?'” said Ashland County Circuit Court Judge Robert E. Eaton.

As the lone judge in the county, Eaton used to track his case clearance rates on a monthly basis, but now logs on daily to evaluate progress.

He said his vigilance isn’t a matter of impatience, but simply awareness to ensure that cases are being handled in an efficient manner.

One of the goals of the program is to prevent cases from “falling through the cracks” said CCAP Chief Information Officer Jean Bousquet.

On each personalized dashboard, judges can view clearance rates by case type, age of pending cases against processing goals and time to disposition.

Through the system, judges can drill down to statistics which show how quickly cases in a particular area, such as probate or family law, are being processed compared to disposition goals.

Bousquet noted that this is especially beneficial for those judges who handle everything from criminal to small claims cases in multiple jurisdictions, such as Eaton, who hears cases in neighboring Bayfield and Sawyer counties.

“I used to have to call the clerk’s office to find out what was going on and often times I’d say, ‘I don’t need to know that badly’ so I wouldn’t call at all,” Eaton said.

While the Judicial Dashboard is already a timesaver for judges and staff, attorneys could also realize the practical benefit.

As judges become more familiar with the program, Bousquet suspects they will make efforts to coordinate appearances by attorneys who may have multiple cases pending in court.

Given that the program is so new, DiMotto said it’s hard to quantify the early returns, although he anticipated ongoing feedback from judges will dictate any needed changes.

Already planned is an update to the system which will allow judges to sort attorney activity in a particular county.

“If a judge needs to schedule something three weeks out, they could know when an attorney is already going to be in court and stack an appearance on top of something else going on,” Bousquet said.

Another potential enhancement could be remote access, although Bousquet said there are some concerns regarding confidentiality.

At this point, judges can only log onto the system from a courthouse, but don’t have to be in their own jurisdiction.

“We are definitely being encouraged to take advantage because this allows us to be more efficient,” DiMotto said. “If you can do something in two computer strokes as opposed to five that is going to save some time.”

Jack Zemlicka can be reached at jack.zemlicka@wislawjournal.com.

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