HERE IS THE WHOLE TRUTH ON OREGON’S eCOURT
by Lauren Paulson
I was a loyal fan of the Perry Mason TV courtroom episodes of the 50’s and 60’s. One learned there of the requirement in life and in the law to always, always tell the Whole Truth.
The Oregon State Bar doesn’t do that. Or, more precisely the Oregon State Bar Bulletin doesn’t do that in their June, 2012 article on Oregon’s eCourt written by David Factor of the Oregon Judicial Department (OJD). It is more than sad. It should make you mad.
The goal of Oregon’s eCourt program, when first proposed by Oregon lawyer Kenji Sugahara in 2002, was to get electronic filing and electronic online access to the Oregon courts.
bulletinsfromaloha.org has reported on Oregon’s eCourt before. I can speak on the subject with some authority because I was on the Oregon State Bar’s Board of Governors a decade ago when the idea was first floated. Ten years ago!! The federal courts conceived of their idea about the same time and have had their program, PACER, in place for six years.
THE CAPTAIN OF OREGON’S eCOURT PROGRAM
HAS DESERTED THE SHIP
Oregon’s former Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court for the last six years, Paul De Muniz, is wasting over $100 million of taxpayers money on sails in tatters when he should have replaced the electronic engine of Oregon Judicial Department’s ship of state, OJIN. Halfway through the project officially begun in 2004, Justice De Muniz has jumped overboard and seeks a safe harbor elsewhere; at the Oregon Law Commission. (There he seeks to do away with Oregon’s Constitutionally required judicial elections and replace elections-by-citizens with an unelected commission to appoint Oregon’s judges. Think oligarchy.)
OREGON’S eCOURT PROJECT IN TATTERS.
David Factor of the OJD wrote the above June, 2012 update on the eCourt project for Oregon’s 13,000 somnolent lawyer-users. Unfortunately the article is patently false in parts and does not tell the Whole Truth. To the contrary, his June 2012 Bulletin article paints yet ANOTHER rosy picture of Oregon’s decade-old eCourt effort.
Oregon’s Legislative Fiscal Office (LFO) put Justice De Muniz on fiscal and management probation last year following two years of alarming reports from the eCourt independent quality assurance vendor, InfoSENTRY Services, hired to monitor the project. At that time, May 13, 2011, the Oregon Legislative Fiscal office said Oregon’s eCourt program has been “highly troubled” since it began in 2004 as follows:
“OJD focused on the positive side of the eCourt Program and failed to mention ...all of these major problems (of) the eCourt Program ... over the past 3-5 years:
- Highly frequent strategy and direction changes;
- High-turnover in project leadership with each major change in direction;
- Highly critical quality assurance reports for much of the past three years. One QA report states Oregon’s eCourt has been behind schedule since 2007;
- Extreme difficulty in having OJD funding requests approved by the legislature due to the many project management problems that have been identified by their QA and the LFO;
- Regular slippages and delays of major components of the Appellate level implementation of eCourt capabilities (i.e. the financial component has been delayed for nearly 24 months), and regular cancellations of trial court related eCourt efforts due to either lack of progress, or major changes in program direction (i.e. the recent cancellation of the trial court ECM and eFiling efforts);
• Numerous delays in program progress due to the lack of many foundational PMBOK required project management documents (i.e. project charters, business plans, integrated project schedules and financial plans, risk management plans, etc.); and
- “Last chance discussions” with various legislative committees related to OJD’s willingness to show the legislature that if money is provided to them, that OJD can actually perform ”
In 2010, all five Oregon eCourt pilot implementation projects failed. That led to the jettisoning of all of the work done on the project for five years along with eight years of planning.
In June, 2011 the Oregon Legislature required then Chief Justice Paul De Muniz to sign an agreement to address over 30 deficiencies (called ‘deliverables’) on the project before further funding. Three Oregon legislators were assigned to provide oversight on the project.
THEN THERE IS THE SUBJECT OF MONEY....
As of 2010, when the OJD changed horses (and computer vendors) in midstream, over $33 million had been spent. The new contract to Tyler Technologies calls to pay them at least another $30+million. The current pending Oregon eCourt budget request is for $90+ million. (JCLAIMT 4/5/11 hearing findings) The LFO documents that $6-8 million dollars has been wasted between 2009 and 2011 on the five pilot projects that failed.
The Oregon eCourt program is being paid for through $100 million in borrowed funds financed through bonds. Interest payments alone exceeded $10 million dollars for the two year period of 2009 to 2011. This year it will exceed $16 million more.
The 2012 Oregon legislative Joint Committee on Ways and Means report observes that Oregon’s eCourt General Fund expenditures “...are not accounted for discretely in the state’s budget system”. The report goes on to state that only recently was a comprehensive and consolidated eCourt budget provided by Justice De Muniz, that allowed for meaningful legislative oversight. An accounting of all expenditures on the eCourt program by OJD was inadequate according to this LFO report.
LIES DECRY PEDIGREES
The reports from OJD on Oregon eCourt are filled with obvious misstatements. Untruths. Lies even. But, why?
For Example: Small ones at first. No one at OJD can identify when the Oregon eCourt Program started and for what. OJD has, depending on the report, identified Oregon’s eCourt Program starting in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008.
Even more mysterious is for what purpose the program was started. For example, in Justice De Muniz’ Brennan Lecture in April, 2012 he states:
“Begun in 2006, the eCourt Program has focused primarily on appellate matters....” [87 NYU Law Review 1 (2012), page15]
On the other hand, Kingsley Click, OJD’s State Court Administrator states in her February 2, 2012 report to the Oregon Legislature:
“In February 2004, the Chief Justice chartered a Special Task Force on Future Technology in the Oregon Courts to develop a 10-year information technology strategic plan for the Oregon Judicial Department”.
More Troubling: Is the lack of candor by lawyer-leaders. As of March 30, 2012 the Quality Assurance vendor, InfoSENTRY Services, still rates the overall project “at risk” of ultimate failure.
If one goes back, as I have, and read all the reports by those in charge, one can’t help but feel sorry for the dozens and dozens of Oregonians that have put their shoulder to the Oregon eCourt Program wheel and were not told The Whole Truth.
For Example: In 2010 the Program was clearly in the ditch with five failed pilot projects and faced with firing all their multiple vendors. The Oregon Legislature had put them into ‘remediation’. Yet, in 2010, the Oregon State Bar and the Oregon Judicial Department put out two detailed HUGE “Oregon eCourt Program Status Reports”. Neither indicates any storm clouds on the horizon whatsoever.
Ah, judicial accountability is a wonderful (missing) thing.
claurenpaulson2012 firstname.lastname@example.org bulletinsfromaloha.org