RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Private records made public, arrest warrants for those out on bond, incorrect notifications of court dates, incorrect suspension of drivers’ licenses — that’s a short list of issues local attorneys continue to say that they are having since the launch of eCourts.
The software was developed by Tyler Technologies. The company was hired by the state to implement a system that digitizes court documents, ridding the need for paper in most instances.
“We certainly are in a much better place in terms of just the day-to-day operation of the courts than we were in March of this year,” said Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman.
But Freeman went on to say all the news is not good.
“I think more and more on a daily basis, we are having the feeling that we shouldn’t be having some of these issues still this far into this project,” Freeman said.
Before eCourts launches statewide Wake, Johnston, Lee and Harnett County have served as pilot counties since Feb. 13. But the launch has not been easy. While the smaller counties have seen improvements, Wake—the state’s most populated county—continues to experience errors with the technology.
“Unfortunately, we live in an arena where if there’s something that’s not entered correctly or a system goes down, it has really challenging implications. Real life implications for people,” Freeman said. “They may lose their license, they may get arrested all of those things.”
She went on to express her gratitude to the public who have shown patience while Wake County has been navigating the transition.
“I think it’s important they know that we take this seriously and that we are trying to make sure that the powers that be, so to speak, the leadership at the Administrative Office of the Courts, the leadership at Tyler Technologies, knows that we continue to have issues that are having real implications for people,” said Freeman.
Freeman was co-chair of the select committee that ultimately chose Tyler as the vendor for software that will cost around $100 million. She is now advocating for an independent review, and in particular, one that is outside the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts which is overseeing the rollout.
“We’ve talked about having someone else come in and review kind of where are we in this process, are the problems we’re having still in range or not,” Freeman added. “Because at the end of the day, the public needs to be able to have confidence in what’s happening down here. And when they’re hearing these things and there are lawsuits being filed about people being wrongfully arrested, you know it’s time for somebody to take a look at what’s happening and make sure that we are doing our very best to serve the public.”
Mecklenburg County was scheduled to launch in May but was delayed until Oct. 9.
Tyler has referred all media questions to the NCAOC. In response to CBS 17’s inquiry about a potential review, spokesperson Graham Wilson said in statement:
“An eCourts Advisory Committee selected North Carolina’s new digital courts platform in a thorough process led by elected judicial leaders. The eCourts project is still in its early stages as we transition from the four-county pilot phase to Mecklenburg County, and we are encouraged by the progress towards implementation in Track 2 and all of North Carolina. Based on the progress that has been made during the pilot process, there are no plans for an external review at this time.”
There are days that the software causes Wake County court to come to a halt and the line backs down the hallway, which CBS 17 has observed firsthand. All of this requires additional hours, but Freeman said she can’t get an accounting of how much because of issues with the software program.
“I normally would have had my fiscal year data, certainly a month if not more by now, so that I could kind of see where we were in terms of how efficiently are we able to operate,” Freeman said. “We’re waiting on that report. I can’t even account for how far back this has pushed us in terms of being able to get the court’s business done.”
Operations are a lot more efficient in Wake County than they were in March, according to Freeman, though she said, “I think most of my prosecutors would tell you that we are still maybe getting 70% done in a normal plea session or court session than we would have traditionally gotten done before the launch.”