Circuit court takes step toward paperless system

By: Robert Guttersohn | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published October 31, 2012

MOUNT CLEMENS — Within the next 10 years, Macomb County Circuit Court wants to become the first completely paperless court system in Michigan, outside of the federal system.

“We’ll be ahead of everyone in Michigan as far as being paperless,” said Chief Judge David Viviano at the Oct. 24 Macomb County Board of Commissioners Finance Committee meeting. “We really want to be a leader in this area.”

Recently, the court found a cheaper way to reach that goal when they chose the Southfield-based company ImageSoft to implement the plan for about $100,000 less than anticipated.

The circuit court currently uses an e-filing vendor that, Viviano said, is out of date and incompatible with CourtView, an online database of records used by many courts nationally. Additionally, the vendor would have charged the court $355,400 to expand its service.

The full Board of Commissioners waived the bid process Oct. 24, allowing the circuit court to hire the local tech company without bidding for other offers.

Commissioner Fred Miller, Democrat from the 13th District, was the lone vote against waiver. “By doing (requests for proposals), you save money,” he said after the meeting. “I’m against no-bid contracts.”

Viviano said he requested the waiver because the Michigan Supreme Court needed to approve the plan before the end of the year.

Other commissioners were more optimistic than Miller.

“I have a pretty good idea of how you want to evolve your court into a new century of efficiency,” said Commissioner Roland Fraschetti, a Republican from the 10th District.

It will cost the court $260,000 up front to began implementation of the plan. Then for the next three years, the court will split e-filing revenue with the company to pay for the rest of the first phase. Within the first three years, Viviano said he hopes to have a portion of the family court, the entire civil court and juvenile court entirely paperless.

After the first three years, the court would have to renegotiate revenue sharing with ImageSoft to pay for the incorporation of the criminal court, said Jennifer Phillips, the court administrator. Beyond that, Viviano sees the paperless network eventually spreading to the sheriff’s office and prosecutor’s office.

Viviano was compelled to go with ImageSoft partly because of the cost savings but also because the Michigan Supreme Court and other state departments are beginning to use ImageSoft to convert their filing system. Using the same company as the state would make life for judges much easier, he said.

“I still get stacks and stacks of carbon paper on my desk that I have to sign and send out the old-fashioned way,” Viviano said.