How Digital Court Records Improve Citizens’ Access to Justice

What will our justice system look like 20 years from now? In the digital era, technology permeates into every aspect of our lives—how we communicate, do business, or even entertain ourselves. Businesses and governments are radically altering their processes, striving to provide better, faster and more efficient services to their customers and the public. Why should the justice system be any different? The justice system needs to adapt to our changing and increasingly digital world—and in reality, it already is doing that.

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Embracing technology to provide access to justice to more people

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the rapid deployment of new technology in our legal system. Business and public services had to shift to online operations in weeks. The justice system, which was traditionally dependent on paper-based processes and in-person hearings, was forced to reinvent ways to administer justice.

Even before the pandemic, legal experts within the US justice systems had emphasized the need for courts to embrace technology and improve the experience they provided to litigants, especially those who did not have access to attorneys.

Many states in the US are now adopting digital tools to improve citizens' ease of access to court systems. With the restrictions imposed on in-person proceedings during the pandemic, we saw a quick shift to electronic filing systems, eliminating the need for litigants to appear before judges and submit paper documents. The combination of digital tools such as virtual court hearing platforms, videoconferencing facilities, scanned digital documents, and cloud-based file sharing systems also helped to make the shift to digitizing the legal system.

For example:

  • Texan courts held 1.1 million remote civic and criminal proceedings between March 2020 and February 2021. 
  • Courts in Michigan held more than 35,000 video hearings totalling nearly 200,000 hours between April 1 and June 1, 2020.
  • Many more states in the US adopted e-filing of cases, expanding the types of cases and jurisdictions significantly (compared to the pre-pandemic period.)

Digital court records: The security perspective

With the proliferation of digital documents and the online availability of important legal documents, the justice system faces a higher risk of cyber attacks. As a result, data security is a major concern. As cyber attacks increase in size, scale, and damage, compliance with government security and privacy policies is becoming more stringent to keep the justice system, government institutions, and citizens safe. 

CJIS (Criminal Justice Information Services) compliance is one of the most comprehensive and stringent cybersecurity standards for any government or private entity dealing with law enforcement agencies or the justice system. Following CJIS guidelines proactively defends against cyber attack methods such as phishing, malware, hacked VPNs or stolen credentials and protects national security and citizens from cyber threats.

Why is CJIS compliance important for your law firm or legal department?

CJIS, a division of the FBI, is the main source of information and services for government law enforcement bodies, national security agencies, and intelligence community firms or partners.

Complying with CJIS regulations is essential for law enforcement institutions, businesses or vendors interacting with sensitive documents and legal or intelligence data. Non-compliance can result in loss of access to any FBI database or information from the CJIS system, as well as fines and severe deviations can even lead to criminal charges. 

How DRS supports document digitization and content management for digital court records

Transitioning from paper to digital court records is the first step in ensuring your legal department adheres to the CJIS security policy guidelines.

DRS offers bulk document scanning to law firms or legal departments of government entities to take the first step toward making the justice system more accessible with digital court records. Mercury, our content management system, has security and access control features that help legal teams to conform to CJIS guidelines.

Here's a look at some aspects of CJIS security policy guidelines:

  • To meet CJIS compliance, legal departments and legal service providers must ensure data security and system and network integrity of all documents and data used within the justice system. 

DRS provides specialized legal document scanning services that ensure complete confidentiality of sensitive documents with a secure chain of command, handled by trained personnel with security background checks.

Documents in multiple formats, including audio files or video recordings, are stored in a centralized, secure repository that seamlessly integrates with existing practice management systems or other applications. This provides law firms, attorneys, and support teams with secure access to documents from anywhere and on any device.

  • CJIS guidelines require both physical documents and digital files to be handled securely. Access to public records, written transcripts, court orders, electronically recorded court proceedings, and information in county courthouses must be monitored and tracked.

The right document management system for your legal practice is important because of the documents' confidential and sensitive nature. The risk of liability is high—and legal firms need the right data security to stay compliant. 

With DRS, you can scan, analyze, classify, and store records in compliance-proof storage.

Mercury provides litigation document management that goes the extra mile. Mercury can analyze information throughout your entire data network about a specific case, including email deep dives. As a result, mercury can save your law firm or legal department countless hours of manual labor. It also ensures every document is found and supplied, reducing your risk of losing the case. 

  • Policies and procedures for how digital and physical court records and legal information are stored, accessed, transported, and destroyed must be enforced and documented. 

DRS ensures your digital court records are compliant and stored correctly using a combination of industry expertise and robust legal document management software. 

DRS also offers consulting services to law firms and government legal departments to recommend a document management solution and provide cloud-based data storage and archival solutions for high-volume sensitive records. In addition, we put in place policies and procedures for the secure handling of data and documents.

We provide support for data on customers' private cloud or manage your data in public cloud storage like Amazon or Azure.

DRS also has a hosted, private cloud storage solution for customers looking for a scalable, easy-to-use solution that isn't a public cloud.

  • CJIS compliance requires you to exercise stringent access control on documents accessed by users. User types and their access levels must be defined, controlled, and tracked.

Our document management system provides audit trails that can be accessed, so you always know who accessed a document and what modifications were made.

  • Auditing and accountability must be maintained to meet CJIS compliance requirements. For example, document access must be audited for login attempts, changing of file permissions, attempts to modify or destroy history or logs, and attempts to modify passwords. Any breaches or incidents must be reported to the CJIS. 

Mercury provides system-wide information about content, users, projects, and activities in a convenient dashboard view, making it a secure, compliant, and efficient digital court records management solution.

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DRS: Your digital transformation partner

Talk to DRS for expertise in digitally transforming large volumes of legal records. Our bulk scanning services for legal departments and law firms are efficient, accurate and affordable and help them comply with federal regulations for maintaining security for digital court records.