RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Soon after a new computer software system known as eCourts launched in four North Carolina pilot counties in February, CBS 17 started to get an earful from people trying to use it. To this day, the complaints continue.
North Carolina House Democratic Leader Robert Reives is hearing much of the same—to a staggering degree.
“Of the many controversial issues we’ve had up here, I’ve not had as many personal phone calls, texts and emails about almost any subject. I would say [there were] two subjects that ranked above this,” Rep. Reives told CBS 17.
Last week Reives asked House Speaker Tim Moore for a formal inquiry saying, “the rollout has been marred by glitches and setbacks from the beginning, and North Carolinians deserve to understand what went wrong.”
According to attorneys CBS 17 has spoken to, that includes social security numbers being made public, the inability to access cases and bogged down court rooms.
“On the one hand, I can understand as any agency you don’t want to be inundated by hundreds and possibly even a thousand folks trying to get in and get the information. But, at the same time, they do need to get heard about specific examples. We’ve had meetings where we’ve had that discussion,” said Reives.
Since Reives’ inquiry request, he’s met with the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts which is overseeing the project that Texas based Tyler Technologies was hired to do.
“This is something where I want to get things fixed for the people participating in the system and if we’re being provided a way to fix that there’s no need to do anything else,” Reives said.
North Carolina Judicial Branch Communications Director Graham Wilson responded to CBS 17’s request for comment, saying:
“We value the productive working relationship the Judicial Branch has with Leader Reives, and appreciate his accessibility and willingness to allow us to correct significant misinformation he had heard. We appreciate the General Assembly’s longstanding support of eCourts and share the goal of making the project a success by delivering digital access to the courts system for all North Carolinians. Pilot county courts remain fully operational and have handled over 50,000 filings using Odyssey. Handling these cases digitally has saved an estimated 465,000 pieces of paper from being added to court files. Public users conduct approximately 10,000 Portal searches daily, saving thousands of trips to local courthouses and calls to the clerk’s office. We are grateful to local courthouse officials and staff for their great work during this transition and we remain committed to improving the Odyssey experience for all users.”
In a letter to Rep. Reives, NC AOC director Ryan Boyce outlined what action his office has taken.
In part of the four-page letter, Boyce said, “starting on February 13, 2023, NCAOC provided dedicated on-staff support in each of the pilot counties to assist with questions and to report any software defects or procedural issues. These staffing levels are as follows: 11 in Harnett, 11 in Johnston, 10 in Lee, and 31 in Wake. NCAOC has and will continue to ask Tyler to provide on-site technical staff to monitor system stability, help troubleshoot issues, and employ fixes as necessary.”
Reives says there needs to be a better way for members of the court to communicate their issues with NCAOC and for those complaining to know what the solution is. It’s a role Reives says he will now take on.
Hoping that will work, Reives is halting his inquiry request. But he is still concerned about any damage already done or that may come as issues are being fixed.
“If you’re in court, 99 times out of a hundred you’re experiencing the worst time in your life,” said Reives. “And you just don’t want to have things that complicate that even further.”