IJP Improves Court Administration, Processes and Courtroom Support through E-Forms Solution
The Integrated Justice Project (IJP), a public-private initiative between the Ontario ministries of the Attorney General, Correctional Services, and the Solicitor General, and several leading Canadian companies, was instituted in 1996 to facilitate more modern, effective, and accessible administration of justice. The Project will affect approximately 22,000 employees in the Ministries at 825 different locations across Ontario, as well as municipal police forces, judges, private lawyers, and the general public.The Project was instituted to provide financial and qualitative benefits to users of the justice system. The need for improvement in the administration of justice in Ontario has been pointed out by a number of judicial inquiries, studies, and coroners’ juries, which have recommended faster and better information sharing within the justice system. Better information sharing is expected to increase public and police safety, make the justice system more accessible and responsive and reduce or eliminate inefficiencies and delays in the system.
The objective is to improve information flow by streamlining existing processes and replacing older computer systems and paper-based information exchanges with new, compatible systems and technologies. Information is to be moved electronically between users, reducing the time, effort, and cost that now go into producing and retrieving documents.
As in most provincial court systems, the Ontario court system uses thousands of different paper forms and documents to process information through the various stages of the system, including disclosures, pre-trials, pleadings and evidence, exhibits, rulings, and judgements. Under the current system, this information is processed into a structure which can be as varied as the number of courts. Spearheaded by the Ministry of the Attorney General, a main component of the Integrated Justice Project – Electronic Document
Filing and Case Management – was undertaken to develop a system that would address this challenge and allow for more efficient and secure management of the information generated and processed through the courts.
After an extensive pilot project in 1999, CDIT was sub-contracted to provide the electronic forms development services for the Electronic Document Filing and Case Management component of the Project.
Spearheaded by the Ministry of the Attorney General, a main component of the integrated Justice Project – Electronic Document Filing and Case Management – was undertaken to develop a system that would allow for more efficient and secure management of the information generated and processed through the courts.
The electronic forms component of the Integrated Justice Project is based on an XML architecture, leveraging applications from Adobe Systems, as well as custom-developed applications and systems. Existing paper-based court forms served as the basis for the creation of electronic forms versions. Each paper-based form to be converted was analyzed from both a business and functional perspective, to develop a form definition package for the form. This package included details on the form fields, logic, business (validation) rules, and rendering rules for the form.
CDIT developed an online input version of each form in Adobe Form Designer, leveraging the built-in functionality of the application, as well as applying custom developed objects and scripting to each form. For the back-end form requirements, CDIT leveraged the dynamic print and output capabilities of Adobe Central Pro Output Server to develop a second form template for each form, which intelligently and dynamically produces a PDF file based on the data received from the online input form. The input forms can be completed online in a secure, Web-based environment, or offline, by downloading the form. Upon submitting a form, the inputted data is sent through a custom program that merges and formats the data into a PDF file, which is an identical representation of the original paper-based form. This becomes the Official Rendered Record (ORR) and is filed in the Case Management system. along with the separated XML data.
CDIT also provided a number of additional services, including ongoing support, incorporation and development of the Project’s XML architecture, initiating workflows, updating backend databases with form data, providing technology architecture vision, project coordinating and liaising and project management.
The benefits to the Ontario justice system will be numerous. Information will be shared and moved electronically, reducing the time, effort and cost that now go into producing, tracking, forwarding, filing and retrieving documents.
Police officers will be available to the public for a greater part of their working day because time spent on administration and paperwork will be minimized. The courts will be more efficient because civil court files will be mitted electronically, private lawyers will no longer need to send people to stand in line to file in person. The electronic transmittal of case information to the Crown attorneys and courts will reduce time lags and efforts for both police and Attorney General staff.
Corrections staff will be able to assign convicted offenders to correctional facilities before they leave court. With access to the positive identification provided by police, linked automatically to the offender’s criminal record and previous behavior in jail, they will be able to make informed decisions on handling the offender and on possible program needs.