January 13, 2011
Technology & Science
The Future Is Within Our Grasp

By Christopher B. Dolan

As a trial lawyer, and frequent (daily) user of our court services, I
have seen the future and I don't want to go back. Recently, during my
tenure as President of the Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC),
the Board of Governors was given a real-time demonstration of the
California Courts Case Management System (CCMS). Following the
presentation it was apparent to our Board that CCMS was the final link
in unification and a dramatic leap forward for the practical,
efficient and economical practice of law. Because of the obvious
benefits provided to the effective administration of justice, for
consumers and attorneys alike, our Board voted unanimously to support
a prompt, economical, statewide, completion and implementation of

Currently there are 58 Superior Courts with facilities located in over
450 locations. This translates to 58 different clerk's offices, filing
windows, calendars and dockets. There is no uniformity in filing
practices and no central repository of data regarding filings,
parties, case status, judgments, tentative rulings, orders, etc. Some
courts allow filing online, some by fax, and, unfortunately, many
still require manual delivery. Some courts have simple Web sites
merely providing hours of operation and locations. Some offer online
dockets, imaged pleadings and electronically posted tentative rulings
online. Some courts require manual searches of physical files to
locate pleadings and require telephonic confirmation of tentative
rulings. Currently, to search for other lawsuits by or against the
same parties, 58 individual, county by county, searches must be
undertaken. This inconsistency presents an impediment to the efficient
administration of justice by all stakeholders, lawyers, litigants and
courts alike. Given the universally employed technology of computers
and the Internet, the current status of access to court information is
embarrassing for California - the self proclaimed leader in innovation
and technology. Our courts, where intellectual property rights are
fast and furiously litigated, are stuck in the age of the telegraph.

CCMS, currently in partial release in seven counties, will finally
modernize our courts providing "round the clock" access to information
statewide via the Internet, including online access to the Register of
Actions, court calendars, identity of parties, critical pleadings,
tentative rulings and other vital information. Additionally, it will
provide for the electronic filing and service of pleadings as well as
the ability to view, print, and obtain certified copies of certain
pleadings and court dispositions. This will expedite litigation while
achieving significant efficiencies by reducing the amount of paper,
energy and cost used in the production, service, viewing and storage
of case documents. When fully implemented, CCMS will allow statewide
access to a party's litigation history through a simple name search.
Likewise, an attorney's involvement in cases can be searched using the
attorney's bar number/name.

When our Board was provided the demonstration of the features,
interface, and ease of use, jaws dropped. While we had heard a lot
about the pros and cons of CCMS, from the political debate, none of us
had seen it. By the end of the demonstration, we all wanted to know
when it would be available to us. It was like seeing an Apple iPhone
for the first time.

Many of us, who manage our own firms, see this as an invaluable tool
to monitor and evaluate the status of any of our cases being handled
by associates, including listing and printing a register of upcoming
events by case, or by attorney. The benefit of real-time filing and
service of pleadings cannot be denied. We immediately realized that
the implementation of CCMS will reduce overhead by minimizing the
hours of manual labor required to duplicate, file, and serve
pleadings, and search and copy physical court files for pleadings and
orders. It will also, undeniably, reduce costs associated with the
storage of current and closed files. These same savings and
efficiencies will also benefit the courts, allowing more efficient
processing of pleadings, reduction in physical space for storage, and
the ability to reallocate resources to provide for staffing of
courtrooms and judges so that the backlog of orders and trials can be

Central to our core value of access to justice, the Board also saw the
obvious benefit from CCMS to unrepresented litigants who would, for
the first time, have access to the courts in a manner that is
intuitive and user friendly. Likewise, as to another core value of
ours - transparency through a public administration of justice - CCMS
will eliminate the mystery associated with the courts by providing,
through its Public Access Portal, a familiar, user friendly interface
for, not only litigants, but the press and the public at large.
Consumers seeking information on their tires, vehicles, cribs, home
builder, lender, etc., could search the court records for valuable
information that is currently, otherwise, unavailable.

While we recognize that the development time and cost of CCMS is a
topic of hot debate often pitting members of the judicial branch
against each other, with us caught in between, from our perspective as
practitioners it is undisputed that CCMS is as revolutionary to the
practice of law as the use of word processors and copy machines.

Christopher B. Dolan is the immediate past president of the Consumer
Attorney's of California and the owner of the Dolan Law Firm in San