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National News

Maine Trying To Go Digital

February 21, 2020 posted by Steve Brownstein

 Maine has yet to introduce an electronic system to manage case filings. 
  Early planning to roll out an e-filing and case management system dates to 2004-2005. 
  After a decade of consideration, Maine hired Tyler Technologies in 2016 to implement a system used in 30 other states. 
  The 10-year contract with Tyler Technologies for its case management and e-filing system called Odyssey will cost Maine $16.8 million and is scheduled to be fully installed by 2022. 
  Until Odyssey provides usable information, those focused on trying to answer critical questions about the health of Maine’s judicial system will remain frustrated. 
  Maine’s current case management software system — the Maine Justice Information System (MEJIS) — is 23 years old and has not had significant upgrades since its 1997 installation. It  relies on thousands of paper records filed in courthouses across Maine’s 16 counties. 
  Amy Quinlan, director of court communications for the state, said the current system wasn’t designed to meet today’s technology and data intelligence needs. 
  “(MEJIS) was designed to support the paper record and associated processes,” Quinlan said. “It was never designed to accommodate electronic filing and the digital record with all its access benefits.”
  The Maine Judicial Branch created a task force in 2017 to focus on the transparency and privacy of court records, and what information would be available as the courts finally entered the digital age.
  Saufley said some cases, such as child protective cases or juvenile misdemeanors, will be kept confidential and not posted online. Saufley and members of the judicial system are working on guidelines to determine what documents will be available. 
  “It’s always a question of balance. To try to balance transparency and public trust with the need to protect people — who have to come to court — from having their private pain just sort of splashed all over the internet,” she said.
  Ed Folsom, a criminal defense attorney in Biddeford, is concerned about the potential lack of privacy for his clients. 
  “I would like to see (clients) be able to get out from some of these clouds that hang over their lives,” Folsom said. “The more that is out there for people to see, the more difficult it is for you to ever overcome this stuff.” 
  Saufley said that 70 to 75 percent of records will be available remotely, including criminal and civil records. Some cases still will only be viewable at the courthouse because of privacy concerns. 
  “Domestic violence is actually controlled by the federal laws. We can’t put those online. With regard to whether it’s a divorce or a family matter case, some of the filings, you just can’t imagine the harm it would do for those to be accessible online,” Saufley said.

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