Innovative use of it in the federal magistrates service
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Innovative use of IT in the Federal Magistrates Service. Federal Magistrate Stuart Roberts. IT in a ‘start-up’ court. Needed to be operating as a fully established court Australia wide by June 2000 very short establishment period widely dispersed - Darwin to Launceston

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Innovative use of IT in the Federal Magistrates Service

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Innovative use of it in the federal magistrates service

Innovative use of IT in the Federal Magistrates Service

  • Federal Magistrate Stuart Roberts

It in a start up court

IT in a ‘start-up’ court

  • Needed to be operating as a fully established court Australia wide by June 2000

  • very short establishment period

  • widely dispersed - Darwin to Launceston

  • very small support staff - only 1 federal magistrate and 2 staff in many locations

  • need to provide services in regional Australia

Leveraging existing infrastructure

Leveraging existing infrastructure

  • The major IT strategy has been to leverage off the existing infrastructure of the Family Court and, to a lesser extent, the Federal Court.

  • demonstrated that IT resources can be successfully shared by courts, while maintaining the operational independence of each of the courts

  • success in large part due to highly professional services provided by the other courts,particularly the Family Court IT services team

Access to highly developed networks and systems

Access to highly developed networks and systems

  • Leveraging gave immediate access to:

  • Lotus Notes messaging - e-mail absolutely critical in a small widely dispersed organisation

  • access to wide area network covering all requiredlocations and access to local area networks

  • the use of existing case management systems

  • a range of software (eg Microsoft Office products)and experienced IT support staff

Unique requirements

Unique requirements

  • The FMS needs to be different - it wasn’t established to replicate the other federal courts. Therefore some IT developments are necessarily unique, for example:

  • created own web-site as part of separate corporate identity

  • separate intranet - developed in Lotus Notes byFamily Court but content only accessible to FMS

  • developed a ‘committees database’ in Lotus Notes,in recognition of the need to manage the somewhatunique governance arrangements for the FMS flowing from its enabling legislation

Casetrack major development

Casetrack - major development

  • Family Court will talk in detail about Casetrack CMS

  • Also a major development for FMS:

    • key aspect for the FMS is that we are confident our separatebusiness processes, which will inevitably diverge from the other federal courts because of our legislative mandate to handle simpler less complex matters, can be accommodated within a common system

    • another example of successful sharing of systems

  • FMS development focussing on the managementreporting/business intelligence capability

    • significant information is available but needs reporting and analysis tools to take full advantage

Casetrack fms end user layer

uses Oracle Discoverer

provides a snapshot of the Casetrack Case Management System

provides sophisticated ad hoc SQL query capabilities

improved MIS analysis for strategic planning as well as periodical reporting

Casetrack-FMS End User Layer

Dispersed workforce

Dispersed workforce

  • heavy reliance on e-mail as a form of communication

  • no ‘admin staff’ in any location other than Melbourne, therefore need to take advantage of technology:

    • use of digital recording and transmission of judgements to a central transcriber

    • local office supplies sourced on-line throughCorporate Express

    • payroll, accounts processed centrally - strong use of intranet on-line forms

    • self booking arrangements for travel

    • central on-line booking of temporary staff (court officers) through Drake

    • trial use of on-line training from NETg through the corporate intranet

    • use of inexpensive ‘off the shelf’ software for payroll and finance eg MYOBfor centralised processing

Challenge of operating in regional australia

Challenge of operating in regional Australia

  • Strong commitment of the court to regional services:

  • all federal magistrates and associates using Compaq notebooks on circuit- some trialing PDAs

  • trial of portable digital court recording software

  • working with regional courts to improve telecommunication facilities

  • use of videoconferencing

    • particularly useful in call-overs prior to conducting circuits

  • trialing ABS mapping software to ensure current andfuture circuits are targeting the appropriateregionallocations

  • Other developments

    Other developments

    • trialing voice recognition for some federal magistrates

    • use of telephone mentions :

      • reduces costs for clients - no need to attend court

      • conducted in same manner as if in court

      • telephone conference booked through Telstra

      • Telstra records the call and forwards the tape to FMS

      • tapes can be transcribed if necessary by transcription provider

    • development of a database to track and distribute judgments for publication (focus of next series of slides)

    Judgments appeals a database to track and distribute judgments for publication

    Judgments & AppealsA database to track and distribute judgments for publication

    Judgments process

    Judgments & Appeals

    Judgments Process

    • Issue a Citation

    • Judgments Formatting

    • Judgments Distribution

    • Reporting and Analysis

    Issuing citations

    Associates requests a Citation from Judgment Officer

    sends Citation Request Form

    Citation obtained from the FMC Data Manager database

    automatically issued

    Citation Request form sentback to associates with new Citation

    completes the audit trail

    Judgments & Appeals

    Issuing Citations

    Judgment formatting

    Judgments & Appeals

    Judgment Formatting

    • Judgment Officer receives Judgment for quality control

      • family law judgments ‘sanitised’

    • Completed judgment lodged on FMS Intranet

    • Completed judgments sent to Information Officer for distributing to external publishers

    • Judgments details entered into FMC Data Manager database

    Judgment distribution

    Judgments sent electronically to various external publishing houses and FMS Web-site eg:






    Law Book Company


    AG’s dept


    …. And more

    Judgments & Appeals

    Judgment Distribution

    Reporting analysis

    FMC Data Manager

    Built in MS Access primarily designed to track the judgments process from the issuing of Citations, the distribution process on to the appeals process

    Replaced the mainly manual reporting process done in MS Word and MS Excel

    Reduced data entry times

    Improved reporting capabilities

    Analysis of the process has allowed for productivity improvements and streamlining of systems

    Judgments & Appeals

    Reporting & Analysis

    The switchboard

    All functions are accessed through the one page

    Areas include:






    Judgments & Appeals

    The switchboard

    An example

    Issuing a Citation Screens

    shows the last 5 citations for Family Law and General Federal Law at a glance

    allows searching for Matter numbers to establish whether any other judgments or appeals are attached to this number

    allows selection of Jurisdiction

    automatically chooses next available citation

    starts the tracking process

    reports, that reflect any new additions, can now be produced to immediately rather than later as with previous manual systems

    reduces repeat data entry significantly

    Judgments & Appeals

    An example

    Reports further development


    many reports available in MS Access and MS Word formats

    available immediately

    end user can request new reports to aid in statistical analysis


    Web Interface and query search functionality for FM’s and associates

    Integration with Lotus Notes databases

    Judgments & Appeals

    Reports & further development



    • Focus on on-line strategies that enable clients to access services wherever they are:

    • enable them to interact with the court without having to physically leave their community togo to a court location

    • bring the court to them, electronically and through effective court circuits

    • Challenge in making these strategies work for legal professionals and self represented litigants.

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