Reflecting on Court Technology at Midtown Community Court’s 20th Anniversary

It is hard to believe that the 20th anniversary of Midtown Community Court is fast approaching.  While not the first drug court — that honor goes to Miami Dade — Midtown is broadly recognized as having played a major role in the spread and popularization of community and drug courts nationwide.  According to NIJ, as of the end of 2011 there were over 2600 drug courts operating in the US.

As I recall the start of Midtown, in which I was honored to participate, the key to the concept was to combine immediacy of actual consequences with close judicial monitoring, and real community input into policy.   As we designed the technology, a major goal was to ensure that judges got broad information before they made a sentencing decision, and also afterwards, so they could monitor ongoing compliance.  Important to the model was having a broad range of intermediate sanctions available for the judge to choose.

Below is the screen that we designed — with strong judicial input — to give judges just this information.

MCC-2

As you can see, the top left is the charging information, downloaded directly from the DA’s system, the bottom left is information about the defendant, from the bail release interview, the top right is the criminal record, downloaded from the state criminal record database, and the bottom right is disposition information.  The bottom right also includes various tools.  As time went by, these were expanded to include the ability for judges to see the defendant’s arrest record in geographical context, or to see a statistical prediction of the defendant’s chance of completing an alternative sanction.

I hope it is OK to say that I am very proud of this product.  There is more information about the technology aspects of the project in a paper, the Ten Commandments of Electronic Court Design, which I wrote with Judge Robert Keating, then Chief Judge of the New York City Criminal Court.  Many of the ideas are based on a presentation at the National Center for State Court’s Court Technology Conference in 1992, organized by Jim McMillan and others.  The overall court project head was John Feinblatt.

While the design below was never fully deployed, I would also like to post the mock-up that I did for the then being planned Brooklyn Treatment Court, which would have gone further by providing judges with tools to track and monitor not only the defendant’s compliance, but also the participation of DA, defense and social services in wrap around care for the defendants.

Brooklyn Treatment Court Proposed Screen -- Rights Reserved

Brooklyn Treatment Court Proposed Screen — Rights Reserved

Note the use of color, the emphasis on status reporting, the idea of supervision bands, the explicitness of warning of the consequences of different kinds of violations, the use to sliders to show status, etc.

Please note that rights are reserved in these designs.

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About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
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