Jim McMillan of the National Center for State Courts has an interesting post on their Court Technology Blog about how data from documents generated by court staff might be loaded automatically into the Court CMS, using functionality built into word processors. Here is the key para:
All major word processing and forms software has the ability to merge data from a database into a document when created. Many CMS have been doing this since the early 1980’s via mail merge functionality. But most don’t realize that one can identify data entry fields (see this Microsoft Word example article) so that the data can be “read” for data entry by the database. Therefore the new scenario could be: first, the judge or clerk would select the document to be created; the database in turn would be called upon to complete/merge the known data into the document. When complete, the data added by the user would in turn be read by the system and automatically entered into the CMS database. This helps the judge/clerk accomplish their task and, avoids the need for subsequent data entry and other steps. This is the two way street. But just as important, the document itself should be automatically stored or attached as part of the CMS database so that it is an integral part of the court record.
In the links Jim points too, you have to first create a form for the document, rather than allowing the user to draft it on the fly and bring in data from the CMS from links as he or she does it. But this alone would surely increase both efficiency and accuracy, leading to better data on outcomes in the CMS, also facilitating both research and better compliance enforcement.
Full scale document assembly configured for use at different stages of the case by different players is probably more sophisticated when properly linked to the CMS — and certainly more user friendly for the self-represented when they are starting their cases and thus the database on their case — but this might be easier to implement at least initially for court staff including judges.