RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — At more than $85 million, the 40-year-old technology of the entire North Carolina court system is a getting a complete overhaul. Technical issues caused the pilot launch of eCourts in Wake, Harnett, Johnston and Lee counties to be delayed for more than a year.

Problems in other states that are using the same company behind North Carolina’s project resulted in claims of delayed trials, wrongful arrests and private information that was made public.

Tyler Technologies launched a similar program in Wichita County, Texas several years ago. County Commissioner Jeff Watts told CBS 17 that “it was a long tedious process. We even had a person hired that worked remote for us that did nothing but clean up documents.”

With so many issues including litigation in other states, why choose Tyler Technologies for North Carolina’s massive court system?

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman co-chaired the selection committee.

“We are not allowed to do outside research as part of that selection committee, there are very strict regulations and rules when you are on that selection committee as to the information you’re allowed to consider,” Freeman told CBS 17.

The selection committee did ask the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, which oversees upgrades to technology, to provide any information regarding litigation against any of the companies bidding for the project.

The NC Administrative Office of the Courts told CBS 17 that Tyler Technologies disclosed pending litigation during the procurement process, and the vendor selection committee took that into account.

As it remains unclear what those disclosures were, CBS 17 has asked the NCAOC for that documentation.

Some issues also arose after Tyler Technologies was chosen. 

Freeman said she does believe the rule that the committee can’t do its own research needs to change.

“You know, certainly the history and the litigation history of a company… if you’re going to select them to be a major provider, I think is important and is something a committee should be allowed to consider,” she said.

CBS 17 asked Tyler Technologies for a comment and they referred us back to the North Carolina Judicial Branch, which works in tandem with the Office of the Courts.

This is an exciting time for the Judicial Branch and for those we serve. The modernization of our courts from paper to digital will help us better serve North Carolinians who have business with the court and help us continue to ensure that justice is administered without favor, denial, or delay. We appreciate the public’s patience and cooperation during this historic transition.”

NCAOC Director Judge Andrew T. Heath

As required by their contract, Tyler Tech staff will be on-site for the first several weeks of the launch to handle any issues that may come up. There are also financial credits Tyler will owe if there are problems.

“I think it would be unrealistic to expect that there will not be some transition and some growing pains as we move into this new system,” said Freeman.

Wichita Texas County Commissioner Jeff Watts said the decades of waiting to upgrade their outdated systems made the transition harder.  

“We feel like we’re way down the road with the implementation now. Oh, it was like a heartburn from our perspective because we had gotten out of an old Studebaker and stepped into a race car and nobody knew how to drive it and that was a big learning curve for us,” said Watts.

Just what our learning curve will be, if there is one, should help prepare the rest of the state for when it’s their turn.