Mr. Burlingame's IT career spans over 30 years with state and municipal government, including stints as the first cabinet level CIO for Boston Mayor Thomas Menino; as Executive Director for the Criminal History Systems Board, and CIO for the Executive Office of Public Safety. He served as chair for the executive committee of the national Court Information Technology Officers Consortium. As the Judiciary’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), he manages the way the organization uses information and technology to accomplish its mission. Mr. Burlingame is responsible for technology service delivery, support of over 7,000 computers and 3,000 printers throughout the organization, the Trial Court data network, telephone and video conferencing systems, and the application portfolio for the organization, including email, internet access, and MassCourts.
What do you feel is the greatest misconception about the Judicial Information Services Department (JISD) and its role within the Trial Court?
That we make business decisions about how various systems should work. We are here to assist the court departments in understanding what is possible using the various systems we operate, but in the end it is the individual court leaders throughout the system who are responsible for making business decisions about how our technology is configured to work.
Another misconception is that we track people’s email and internet use. Frankly, we don’t have the time or bandwidth – or even the interest, unless we are alerted to look into a flagrant case of abuse.
How does IT keep on top of the near-constant influx of new technologies, and how does that impact your department’s ability to prioritize and complete projects?
This is a real and ongoing issue for our department. I have to constantly juggle priorities to get the work done on time, while addressing the most pressing needs of the courts. It comes down to prioritizing the finite resources we have now. We all want the latest technologies and gear – in fact it’s not unreasonable to expect IT support for the newest, latest versions of things. But, every hour we spend on the “new” takes away from the “perfectly good” -- those existing systems and technologies that we work with now to do our jobs, such as the many data sharing initiatives among our criminal justice partners.
It’s a bit of a good news/bad news story: the good news is that we already have all the technology we need to collect and process data and information. The “bad” news is that we really should focus on the latest technology and hardware if and only if they can help us get our jobs done faster and better. Otherwise it’s not the best use of our team's resources.
What have been some of your biggest challenges this past fiscal year?
One of our challenges has been to implement a governance process for MassCourts that clearly defines the way we will approach decision-making regarding this state-wide, system-wide case management system. Until now our focus has been getting MassCourts in place throughout the organization. Now that this has been accomplished, we need a formal process to collect ideas, suggestions and priorities for our efforts going forward. The MassCourts governance process is intended to help organize a plethora of suggestions and ideas into groupings of manageable priorities that will provide the most benefit to the most people.
Another challenge is our ongoing effort to consolidate the staff, technologies and support of the Appellate Court users into the newish Judicial Information Services Department.
We've heard complaints about report availability in MassCourts. Are any changes coming?
We are always working on reports. We have a full-time Crystal Report writer who works on a regular basis with departments creating new ad hoc reports that are made available in MassCourts. We also work a lot with the Department of Research and Planning staff to give them access to data and extractions that they use to create a variety of reports, including new statistical reports now being regularly updated on the Trial Court intranet. Of course, there's always more to do, but we continue to make progress in this area.
Could you discuss progress and next steps for some of JISD’s major projects? Let’s start with MassCourts – we’ve all heard complaints about the system, namely: “MassCourts took so long to implement, isn’t it already outdated?”
The implementation of the CourtView system did take over 10 years and that's a long time. One of the challenges in deploying CourtView 3 was that it was still a product under development. When the Trial Court purchased the software before I arrived, CourtView was a client/server system and was being rewritten as the web-based system we have in place today.
As software applications go, CourtView 3 is still a pretty young product. CourtView Justice Solutions, the company that owns MassCourts, is still making enhancements and improvements for us and other customers and is providing us with three software releases a year with bug fixes and enhancements. So at this point I'm not concerned about it being outdated.
How about the courtroom digital recording system, For The Record (FTR)?
This is a very big upgrade from the prior JAVS digital recorders. The biggest benefit from a JISD perspective is new cabling in court rooms to support not only digital recording but other network needs. The FTR contract also includes extensive sound augmentation activities to improve not only the quality of the recordings captured but the overall audio in the courtroom so that individuals in the courtroom have a more rich and functional audio experience.
Can you discuss eFiling (eFileMA). Why didn’t we use Pacer, the federal system? Is it solely due to a difference in case volumes, or were there any other reasons behind the decision?
Many state trial court systems around the country have looked at the federal PACER system as a possible case management system, however none of them adopted it. Primarily this is because the business of the federal courts is quite different from state courts in many significant ways. As you mention case volumes are much lower in the federal courts. State courts also have much greater diversity of the types of cases filed, and far more pro se litigants.
It's important to remember that the MassCourts system was the result of an extensive procurement process through an RFP. Many vendor proposals were reviewed and scored before CourtView was selected as the Trial Court’s vendor for case management. We also did an extensive procurement process for e-filing, and a Trial Court committee reviewed proposals from more than 10 vendors, which conducted demonstrations, before selecting Tyler Technologies e-filing system. It’s always interesting to "Monday morning quarterback" and suggest they should have decided differently. But my perspective is that we’re making good use of the products that were selected, and will continue to make better use of them as we move forward.
What’s next in terms of new technologies and new investments for the Trial Court?
Our network is about to receive a significant boost in bandwidth: all of the Court’s T1 lines (each T1 line can transmit 1.5 megabits of data per second) will be upgraded to 10 megabits/second, a nearly seven-fold increase in our current system’s capacity. This upgrade represents an ongoing annual $350,000 investment in the judicial network, enabling us to better prepare for future data processing and transmission demands, such as online training and digital scanning.
Beyond that, our continued focus will be building upon what we have. Now that we have a single case management system in place for all departments, we will be focused on moving to a more completely digital case record.
The reason we are focused on Civil e-Filing and Criminal Electronic Application for Criminal Complaints (EACC) is to get as much information sent to the court electronically at the time of case initiation. When we can get case data electronically, it reduces the data entry burden. If documents are filed electronically, it reduces the scanning burden. If we deploy more scanners to capture paper documents, we can reduce the need to maintain paper files, minimize storage space and the risk of lost documents. It’s also easier to search and find documents through the online case management system.
We also continue to focus on interfaces that can benefit the Court. For example, we’re working on a new interface with Department of Revenue for child support enforcement filings with the Probate and Family Court Department. We are talking to Public Safety about new interfaces for Mittimus and Habeas exchanges with the Sheriffs and the jails. There is a pilot program in the Executive Branch for electronic traffic citations, and we are working to be able to receive these citations electronically from the police.
For years to come our focus will continue to be on making the most of the significant investment that has been made in MassCourts. The system now regularly processes over one million transactions a day. We are adding functionality to public access computers, internet public access, and the attorney portal to make information available to our customers when they need it without having to burden court personnel. These efforts will all continue to grow and expand over time.
Do you have a court technology question you’d like CIO Burlingame to answer? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org to be included in a future issue of the Bulletin.