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Ohio appeals courts to roll out statewide case management system

Technology for Lawyers

Published: March 26, 2021

All Ohio appeals courts will soon be connected to a new case management system from Thomson Reuters called C-Track.
“The new system is rolling out now,” said 11th District Court of Appeals Judge Cynthia Westcott Rice.
Rice is the newly elected chief of the Ohio Courts of Appeals Judges Association.
“Now, most appeals courts will be on the same platform. I am really excited about that—I’ve been waiting for this for 15 years.” The new case management system (CMS) will be under the auspices of the Ohio Supreme Court.
“It has been a long time coming,” said C. Michael Walsh, court administrator of the 9th District Court of Appeals, which is located in Akron.
C-Track is currently operational in two courts, including the 9th District.
Walsh had a significant role in the C-Track acquisition, which is one reason that the 9th District was one of the first to get it, said Robert Stuart, Ohio Supreme Court head of cloud resources.
Thomson Reuters will also host C-Track, which takes the system out of the physical auspices of the court. It will be paid for out of Ohio Supreme Court funds, said Stuart. And, he said, “since the Supreme Court is paying for it, the court ultimately will make all of the decisions” regarding development and deployment. However, the appeals courts and the IT department did put the RFP together and made the decision on what system to purchase.”
The story of this new system “starts in 1994,” said Walsh.
“The Ohio Supreme Court created a CMS for the appeals courts called OASIS. About half of the appeals courts used this system, the 9th District being one of the first. It was terrific, a great system that replaced index cards. It was state-of-the-art at the time,” Walsh said. “Then in 2004 to 2005 the court went through a system update of the database and all the back end, but that update did not change the user interface (UI). It still looks like that—sort of like (the old Nintendo game) Tecmo football. It is from the 1990s and it looks like it’s from the 1990s.”
Eventually, the system could not be updated anymore and had to be replaced, Walsh said.
The search began four years ago.
“The court wanted options. IT said we should do something off-the-shelf.”
IT in this case included Stuart, who took it from there.
“The appellate courts wanted a (modern) new system with e-filing and document management, so we as a group decided to move forward, put out an RFP and select a vendor solution,” he said.
The “group” he refers to here is the appeals court user group, which includes all court administrators and the Supreme Court IT department.
After a standard vetting process which included studying several other appeals courts in other states, the group chose to go with the Thomson Reuters solution.
Walsh said he particularly liked the fact that C-Track was specifically designed for appeals courts and was not adapted from another court CMS.
The new CMS is exponentially more powerful than the legacy system.
It will allow the appeals court to electronically transfer documents directly to the Supreme Court for the first time, said Walsh.
“It will be implemented in two places” he said. “On the administrative side, we will be able to track the case all the way through. It will also give the judges the ability to collaborate on documents with staff attorneys and other judges. It will record and track votes on cases.”
E-filing is included as an option and is “something that we will roll out eventually,” said Walsh.
The record will be transmitted to the Supreme Court either electronically or by mail/ messenger.
Walsh said that there is no public-facing web page for C-Track, but that other states do have public-facing pages and that that is an option for the future.
Over time, the plan is for all appeals courts to tie into the new system except for the 8th District and probably the 10th, Stuart said. Those two courts are one- county courts (Cuyahoga and Franklin, respectfully), and already have dedicated systems that work closely in conjunction with local clerks of courts.
The rest of the state is scattered enough that it is appropriate to bring them all into one system—although, Stuart said, “the biggest challenge is to get 88 county clerks on the same page.”
Eventually, though, and fairly soon, C-Track will be the statewide CMS for (most of) Ohio’s appellate courts.