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Audit of the Suffolk County Registry of Probate and Family Court Objectives, Scope, and Methodology

An overview of the purpose and process of auditing the Suffolk County Registry of Probate and Family Court.

Table of Contents

Overview

In accordance with Section 12 of Chapter 11 of the Massachusetts General Laws, the Office of the State Auditor has conducted a performance audit of the eFileMA system at the Suffolk County Registry of Probate and Family Court (SCRPFC) for the period September 1, 2018 through October 31, 2019.

We conducted this performance audit in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.

Below is our audit objective, indicating the question we intended our audit to answer and the conclusion we reached regarding the objective.

Objective

Conclusion

  1. Does SCRPFC process documents in compliance with Sections 3(a)(1)(2), 3(b)(1), 4(d), and 8(c) of Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) Rule 1.25?

Yes

 

In addition to concluding on our audit objective, we identified an issue we believe warrants SCRPFC’s attention, which we have disclosed in the “Other Matters” section of this report.

To achieve our objective, we gained an understanding of the internal controls we deemed significant to our audit objective by reviewing applicable laws and regulations and conducting interviews with employees at SCRPFC, the Trial Court Judicial Information Services Department (JISD), the Trial Court Fiscal Affairs Department, the Trial Court Internal Audit Department, and the Trial Court E-Courts Program Office.

We performed the following procedures to obtain sufficient, appropriate audit evidence to address the audit objective.

To determine whether attorneys were in good standing, we selected a judgmental nonstatistical sample of 35 attorneys from a population of 124 attorneys who had e-filed cases during our audit period and performed testing to verify that they had active Board of Bar Overseers (BBO) numbers on file with BBO and were licensed to practice law in Massachusetts during the audit period. JISD receives a weekly list from BBO of all attorneys in good standing, and each Friday, JISD forwards the list to Tyler Technologies to ensure that Tyler Technologies has an updated, accurate list. We accessed the BBO website to review the attorneys’ statuses during the audit period to complete this test.

To determine whether court fees were properly processed through eFileMA, we reviewed eFileMA system reports and MassCourts reports (including Final Receipt Listing Reports, which display the daily amounts collected for e-filed documents, and End of Day Postset Receipts Listing Reports, which indicate that deposits for e-file transactions are complete). Finally, we reviewed the Bank Balance Listing Reports (which record eFileMA deposits), provided by SCRPFC’s bank. Together, these reports allow SCRPFC’s bookkeeper to reconcile eFileMA funds received from Tyler Technologies.

During the audit period, 1,070 documents were e-filed. SJC accepted 582 of these and rejected 451. On 20 occasions, the filer canceled the e-filing, and on 17 occasions, the e-file submission failed. The 582 accepted e-filed documents made up 131 cases with unique docket numbers. Individuals representing themselves e-filed 7 cases, and attorneys e-filed the other 124.

Court fees were assessed in 56 of the 124 cases e-filed by attorneys. We selected a judgmental nonstatistical sample of 20 cases, which included a total of $6,485 in court fees, from the population of 56 and performed a transaction test. We tested the following:

  • approval of eFileMA submissions by an SCRPFC supervisor
  • reconciliation of Final Receipt Listing Reports to End of Day Postset Receipts Listing Reports by the SCRPFC bookkeeper
  • reconciliation of eFileMA payment amounts as recorded in Final Receipt Listing Reports to Bank Balance Listing Reports by the SCRPFC bookkeeper.

Data Reliability Assessment

To determine the reliability of the information submitted to SCRPFC via eFileMA during the audit period, we reviewed certain general information controls and access controls over MassCourts and eFileMA, as well as security training and personnel screening for SCRPFC, and supervised the extraction of the eFileMA information for this period from the system by the Probate and Family Court Department Administration Office’s performance analyst. We traced filer names, attorney names, titles of filed documents, case numbers, dates when documents were submitted to eFileMA, dates when documents were accepted, and fees charged by SCRPFC to file cases to Trial Court Fiscal Affairs Department data generated from MassCourts. We also tested the extracted eFileMA data to ensure that there were no missing data fields or duplicate or extraneous data. We determined that the eFileMA case documents and data were sufficiently reliable for the purposes of our audit work.

Date published: December 31, 2020

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