14 A District Court Outcomes Based Evaluation


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This is the graduate paper I co-wrote and researched for the course, Outcomes-based Evaluation of Programs and Services

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14 A District Court Outcomes Based Evaluation

  1. 1. Washtenaw County 14A District Court Website SI 623 - Outcome-based Evaluation Final Report April 17, 2007 Alina Johnson & Mary Morgan School of Information, University of Michigan
  2. 2. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 I. Introduction The School of Information class Outcomes Based Evaluation of Programs and Services provided a theoretical and empirical basis for assessment and evaluation. Over the course of the Winter 2007 semester, students utilized literature review of context analysis, evaluative best practices, and industry logic models to provide an assessment of the new 14A district court website, www.14adistrictcourt.org. Created by a collaborative effort of attorneys, court administration and staff, and the Washtenaw County IT department, this website serves many roles to the public and those that service the public in Washtenaw County. A. Washtenaw County IT Department - Context The Washtenaw County IT Department is located within the County Annex building at 110 North Fourth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan. It is located on the 2nd floor of a beautiful, old red brick building. The offices are modern, and there is limited security in the building, although located directly across from the old jail. The IT department team consists of approximately eight members who were inherently involved with the website development, including our main contact, Charley Wolfe (Web Content Manager); Andy Brush (Knowledge Manager); Judy Foy (Public Information Officer); the Java team (Mike Brogan, Brenda Kerr and Tom Fielder) and an SI intern. With the exception of Dave Molt (Software Developer) who is a remote member, the team is housed within this building. Typically, a request is initiated by a customer by telephone. In early 2005, 14A district court Chief Judge Simpson contacted Andy Brush to request a complete overhaul of the existing 14A district court website which was not fully practical for all purposes. For instance, he wanted to see enhancements to the online payment system and the addition of pertinent, up-to-date information that was not currently accessible on the website. Telephone calls were placed by the public, routed and then re-routed to appropriate departments placing great strain on the limited staff of the court. In addition, attorneys and legal staff needed a central repository of key legal information to access on a daily basis in service to the public. Both the traffic bureau and the public defender's office were in need of such a repository as they were handling the bulk of the public requests for information. As the initiator for this project, Chief Judge Simpson has complete authority and final approval on all aspects of website design and indicated the traffic clerks and public defender's offices have the most contact with the site for daily work tasks. Over a nine month period starting in July 2005, the Washtenaw County IT department along with the legal community (Washtenaw County Bar Association members, members of the Public Defender's office, legal clerks, paralegals, private and public attorneys, and Chief Judge Simpson), and courthouse administration and staff (14A Administrator, Mark Ptaszek and 14A Court Administrative Coordinator, Sarah Undy) met to determine the objectives and the content of the new website. The website was successfully launched on April 20, 2006. On September 29, 2006 representatives of this collaborative team traveled to Reno, Nevada to accept the Excellence in Strategic Innovation award presented by the National Association of Government Page 2 of 25
  3. 3. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 Webmasters for website’s that serve medium population constituents (100,000 to 400,000). In order to win this award, the site was evaluated based on four criteria: Teamwork, Time Savings, Cost Savings and Uniqueness. In January of 2007, student members of the class SI 623: Outcomes Based Evaluation of Programs and Services were called in to assist with outcome assessment. In February of 2007, student members met with Charley Wolfe of the IT department. He indicated what he believed to be the goals of the assessment and the key stakeholders who met frequently prior to the implementation of the website. Created as a service to the public and those that service the public, great expectations were evident from the beginning. Over the course of two months, various methodologies were utilized to analyze the impact that the website has had directly upon the stakeholders and indirectly, the public. B. Washtenaw County Public Defenders - Context The Pubic Defender's office is located in the same building as the IT department, on the 4th floor. In Washtenaw county, there are a total of sixteen attorney members who include a public defender manager, (Adelphia Simpson), a supervisor (Sheila Blakney), eleven assistant public defenders, and six legal clerks. Sheila Blakney, public defender supervisor and Ron Brown, an assistant public defender, were interviewed. The public contacts the office via telephone or walk-in. No appointment is necessary. Due to the court's implementation of court docket schedules on the website, staffing needs can be met because each judge's schedule is posted a week in advance. In addition, new court cases files are clearly indicated as part of the Lawyer's Briefcase feature of the website. In fact, in the Lawyer's Briefcase are five (5) key areas of interest: Court Information - lists new cases filed and online ticket payment information; Court Rules - lists forms and administrative orders; Bench books - lists landlord/tenant court information; Prosecuting Contact information - lists city, township and village prosecutor information; and Other Washtenaw County Courts - links to 22nd circuit court and the trial court of Washtenaw county. Prior to the website implementation, the only way to find out this information would be to contact the court by telephone and wait for a clerk to answer pertinent questions. All of these web-enabled features assist the attorneys function in daily activities in their work environments, either in the office or at the courthouse. Office duties of the attorneys include the attorney-of-the-day (AOD) function in which an attorney is staffed for the public in the office to assist with matters before them. All attorneys are capable of this duty on a day to day basis. This is a direct contact position with the public and can consist of looking up information on the website for the client or filing papers on behalf of the client. Prior to the website implementation, this office would call the courthouse on behalf of the client to request information which is now easily accessible via the website. Many features of the website are available for the benefit of the public. If one has Internet access, either through the attorneys of the defender's office or self-directed, one may view the judge and court schedules of Washtenaw county, read about jury service and duties or download Page 3 of 25
  4. 4. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 the jury manual, and review costs and pay fines online via a Java-enabled web form. In addition, the website recalls pertinent and commonly requested items relating to court operation such as seeing the hours and holidays of the various courts in the county. One of the most salient features is the user-friendliness and accessibility to all types of information available for use 24 hours a day, seven days a week. C. 14A Traffic Bureau - Context The 14A Traffic Bureau is co-located at the 14A-1 District Court at the corner of Washtenaw Avenue and Hogback Road. The Traffic Bureau staff consists of one supervisor and five clerks. Additionally there are site clerks at the 14A-2 & 14A-3 court locations in Ypsilanti and Chelsea, respectively. These staff members are the employees who address the general public’s questions regarding traffic fines and handle payments that are received either online via the 14A District Court website, in-person at the Traffic Bureau payment window, or via U.S. mail. Traffic fine payments may be paid by check, cash or credit card. There are approximately 25,000 traffic tickets processed by the Traffic Bureau on an annual basis. Answering phones, creating files for the infractions, ensuring fine payments correlate to the citations on the issued tickets, processing payments, and dealing with the public at the walk-up window keep the clerks in this department extremely busy. The “Civil Infractions/Traffic Bureau” portion of the website provides a link to the various 14A Court locations, access to the online ticket payment system, a link to a listing of commonly assessed ticket fines and costs, and information about their normal operating hours and County holidays. By placing commonly requested information on the website and enhancing the online payment system, the Court Administrator’s intent with the upgraded website was to increase public access of the site. This in turn, should result in decreased phone calls and window payments at the Traffic Bureau. To gain adequate representation of the Traffic department both before and after the site upgrade, current and former employees of the department were interviewed. Employees interviewed included Jenny Kulp and Danielle Calhoun (former Traffic Bureau Court Clerks), Georgia Brunson (Traffic Bureau Supervisor) and Lisa Moutinho (Senior Clerk responsible for the financial aspects of the Court). D. Site Content Each bolded word in the listing below represents a major link on the 14A District Court Website. Following each of these designations is a brief explanation of the content that can be found on the respective hyperlinked web pages, some of which link outside of the website:  Judges – full biographies  Docket/Calendar – new cases filed (report – updated weekly) and Judge and Magistrates dockets  Lawyers’ Briefcase – new cases filed; online ticket payment form; links to the judge's biographies; Michigan rules of court; approved court forms; 14A local administrative Page 4 of 25
  5. 5. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 orders; landlord-tenant bench book; links to local government ordinances; and links to other Washtenaw county courts  Jury Service - single page of text about jury duty for 14A district court including frequently asked for information such as dress and expectations  Citizen Guide – no content at this time  Links – prosecutors, public defenders, and other Washtenaw county courts; Michigan state courts, federal courts; other state courts; police agencies in Washtenaw county; Michigan legal officers and organizations; bench books and guides that are internal and external to Washtenaw county and the state of Michigan  Search Function – allows information seekers to find queried search results  Hours and Holidays – links to 14A district court locations  Traffic Bureau – links to 14A district court locations; links to online ticket payment system; links to a list of common fines and costs; and the 14A district court holidays including closed hours  Contact Us – links to “Am I in the Right Court”, links to hours and holidays; and links to web pages with contact information for each of the 14A district courts. According to Chief Judge Simpson, a future goal of the website would be to set hearings. The site now handles many of the daily processing and informational needs of the public and those that service the public including the attorneys and courthouse staff who access this information several times a day. II. Methodology For this project, group members utilized a variety of ethnographic methods, techniques and data analysis. In order to better grasp an understanding of the goals and objectives and to provide a full picture of the range of activities and inputs that went into the outcomes, both qualitative and quantitative measurements were taken. A. Data Gathering Non-participant observation fieldnotes were used to provide the reader with contextual factors which contribute to the public's view and perception of the courthouse and its procedures. The 14A-1 District Court, Traffic Bureau, and the Public Defender's office were the user groups studied as they have a direct contact with the public on a daily basis. Artifacts were also collected and ethnographic interviews were conducted of the stakeholders who provide most direct contact with the public. The stakeholders interviewed included past and present Traffic Bureau clerks Lisa Moutinho, Georgia Brunson, Jenny Kolp, and Danielle Calhoun; the 14A Court Administrator, Mark Ptaszek, Court Administrative Coordinator Sarah Undy; the IT department (Charley Wolfe and Tom Fielder), and the Public Defender attorneys (Sheila Blakney and Ron Brown). In total, ten interviews were conducted, utilizing both structured (see Appendix A) and semi- structured methods. In addition, a total of nine interviews were analyzed employing the use of word frequency clouds and/or coding. From this analysis, the identification of outcomes was placed in tabular format. Also, to better illustrate the central tenet of the website as a service to Page 5 of 25
  6. 6. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 the public, a graphic was created to further identify the relationship between the public to the 14A district court. B. Data Analysis A variety of techniques were used in the analysis of our data. The four structured interviews that took place with the Traffic Bureau clerks were tape recorded and transcribed verbatim. Each transcript’s text was color coded a unique color for tracking purposes, and this content was then combined into one Word document. This document was then fed into a content analysis tool (www.TagCrowd.com) which generated a word frequency cloud (see Appendix B). The cloud’s results were viewed for initial indicators of common text and themes. Next an Excel file was utilized as a tool in which to gather quotes that appeared to have common themes. For each theme, a separate worksheet was created and quotes were appended from the Word document into the appropriate worksheet (see example in Appendix C). These themes eventually grew into outcomes for the Traffic Bureau. The outcomes were further refined as the Outcomes/Activities/Input tables were developed (see Appendix D). The two semi-structured interviews with the Public Defender’s office and the IT department were summarized with the capture of relevant quotes during the time of the interviews. A coding schema was created to aid in the ability of identifying the outcomes for these two departments. The schema included identification of the roles of the website, the roles of the stakeholders, and the roles of the public. Outcomes were generated through the benefit of this process and were further refined as the Outcomes/Activities/Input tables were developed (see Appendix E). The original four scoping meeting interviews that were held with the IT representatives, the Court Administrators, and Judge Simpson were summarized and referenced for supporting quotations that supplemented the outcomes. They were also utilized for direction setting in terms of identifying the scope of our project, including the identification of the stakeholders that would become the focus of our study. The identification of outcomes, along with a conclusion with recommendations follows. III. Identification of Outcomes Based on the analysis of our interview summaries and transcripts, we identified a total of twenty seven specific outcomes; seven outcomes from the Traffic Bureau focus area, eleven outcomes from the IT concentration, and nine from the Public Defender’s office. Because the website has a variety of audiences, we have chosen to segregate the outcomes in this report by concentration, but have created a graphic that portrays how our findings integrate as one toward the County’s (customer) service focus. A. Website Goals The 14A District Court website was created to streamline access to routinely asked-for information and to allow for online payments of traffic fines. Through its formation, its intent was to give easy, convenient, around-the-clock access to information commonly sought after by potential jurists, traffic fine-paying citizens, and attorneys. As a result of the implementation of Page 6 of 25
  7. 7. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 this streamlined website, the County also hoped for a reduction in routine phone calls handled by Court staff and reduced foot traffic in the Court buildings toward the aim of improved building security. “The web site will give individuals and their attorneys the ability to go online to get the information they need before coming to court. And, with the ability to pay traffic tickets online, many individuals won’t need to come to court at all, which should help ease crowding and potential security risks” 1 B. Outcome Identification – IT The eleven outcomes identified were a result of data analysis of interviews conducted on-site and fieldnote observations. They are (1) Provide user-friendly 14A district court website for public use; (2) Provide useful, relevant, heavy demand information on the website for legal community; (3)Provide support services to those who utilize open-source software code (Zope); (4) Facilitate payments of fines for Washtenaw County; (5) Broaden knowledge of IT staff; (6) Deepen commitment to collaborative efforts between groups; (7) Satisfy the customer; (8) An unexpected model evolves; (9) Cost-Benefit savings to Washtenaw County; (10) Empowerment of the customer; (11) Recognition that teamwork is a necessary component of a successful product. Some of these outcomes are a consequence of a specific activity or input, and are correlated to the outcomes of other stakeholders. For instance, the cost-benefits savings to Washtenaw County as a direct result of speaking with Chief Judge Simpson, working with the Java Team, and having the input of the Traffic Bureau; these all came together to provide a valuable and cost-savings mechanism for the court, as payments are now processed quickly. Supportive information in the form of the outcomes/activity/input table can be found in Appendix E, along with quotations taken directly from the interviews conducted. C. Outcome Identification – Public Defender As before, the eight outcomes identified were a result of data analysis of interviews and fieldnote observations on-site. (1) Provide useful information to public requests for information relating to civil and criminal cases; (2) Keep abreast of new developments in the court; (3) Help work processes - or not; (4) Change perception of the court; (5) Additional information may be needed for attorney (daily) usage; (6) Resourcefulness of website features contribute to office effectiveness; (7) Emotional relief from the vast amount of information available at the website; and (8) Less stressful for the public. Supportive information in the form of the outcomes/activity/input table can be found in Appendix F, along with quotations taken directly from the interviews conducted. 1 Judge Simpson. April, 2006. Retrieved from Employee.Ewashtenaw.Org on February 2, 2007 at https://employee.ewashtenaw.org/news/stories/2006/14a_web_launch.html. Page 7 of 25
  8. 8. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 D. Outcome Identification – Traffic Bureau The seven outcomes that were identified as a result of interviews with past and present employees from the Traffic Bureau include content that is specific to the department, along with broader 14A District Court as well as citizen specific outcomes. The department specific outcomes are: (1) Work content has changed, (2) Imposed deadline on task completion, and (3) Easier for clerks to process online payments. The broader 14A District Court and citizen specific outcomes are: (4) Easier for citizens to pay online, (5) Increased security, (6) Increase in online payments and (7) Wrong court payments cause adverse effects. Brief overviews of each of these outcomes are provided here. For supporting quotations activities and inputs that led to these results, please see Appendix D, Traffic Bureau outcomes/activities/input table. 1. Work content has changed Although citizens had the ability through the previous 14A District Court website to pay their traffic fines online, the new site’s upgrades made this feature significantly more user friendly and its user base appreciably increased. With this increase, the work content in the Traffic Bureau had to alter in order to lend sufficient attention to this previously minor portion of their job. Where job content formerly included handling payments sent via U.S. mail and on- site window payments, the processing of online payments adds extra duties onto the clerks. While the percentage of payments online decreases the time spent on some of the original activities (i.e. more online payments mean fewer U.S. mail payments) it is hard to identify if over all time savings have been realized. This is not an unusual result of e-government initiatives. In a 2000 E-government survey conducted by the International City/County Management Association, in which 1,471 municipalities with populations over 10,000 participated, many of the respondents believe that e-government practices reduces time demands on staff, but increase task demand on staff2. Previous duties that appear to have decreased in the time spent on them include: opening U.S. postal mail containing fine payments, processing credit card payments manually, and sending letters or e-mails notifying citizens of overdue payments. Duties where it is unclear if time spent on them has been reduced include: creating files, filing folders, matching up tickets to payments, taking payments at the window, answering phones, and sending e-mails or letters notifying citizens that their fines have been processed. Duties that have been added include: processing online payments (approximately 100/week), sending e-mails notifying 2 Moon, M. Jae. “The Evolution of E-Government among Municipalities: Rhetoric or Reality?” July/August, 2002. Public Administration Review, Volume 62, No. 4, p. 429. American Society for Public Administration: Washington, D.C. Page 8 of 25
  9. 9. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 citizens of wrong court payments, tabulating and balancing online versus on-site payments, training new clerks how to process online payments, and checking the website for payments. There are two key items that are worthy of note in this section. First, in terms of the extra tasks that have been added to the clerk’s work content, the feedback was unanimous that the employees found the extra work to be of value as the online system brings in revenue for the County. Quotes, similar to the one below, were experienced during each of the interviews. “I see the value more from the bigger picture – you have more money coming in to the court that way (online payments). And with that obviously comes more work but it’s definitely valuable in the sense that the revenue is coming in”. The second item has to do with the frequency and content of the phone calls. Whereas some clerks felt that the quantity of phone calls had decreased, others believed that the volume was the same. Several of the clerks attributed to the fact that “it doesn’t matter how good your website is, people are not going to pay very close attention. They’re still going to call; they’re still going to ask those questions that are obviously right there for them”. One clerk had the insight that the content of the calls have changed. Prior to website implementation the calls centered on information about the court, after implementation, there was an increase in calls asking for assistance with using the website. 2. Imposed deadline on task completion After a traffic ticket has been issued, a citizen has ten days in which to pay the fine. After that timeframe, a late fee is assessed. With the advent of the online system, citizens can log on to the website the same day that they’ve received their fine and pay their ticket. Once they submit their information, the website automatically sends them a notification that their information has been received. But the system doesn’t recognize the actual payment until the clerk submits a verification that the information posted on the website matches the information on the actual ticket. If the clerk does not keep up with new online submissions, citizens may get assessed a late fee even though they submitted their credit card information on time. Thus the ten day grace period for citizens becomes a ten day rule for the clerks in order to minimize confusion and complaints on behalf of their customer base. This imposed timeframe causes the clerks to attend to the website more frequently than in the past. Also, with the convenience of online payment, many tickets are paid via the website prior to the clerks receiving the actual ticket from the officer. When tickets do come in, typically in a stack once a week, the clerk has to immediately focus her time on trying to match up an online payment to the physical ticket in order to process the ticket within the ten day rule. 3. Easier for clerks to process online payments In spite of the extra work just described, the clerks still indicate that the online payments are easier to process than the other forms of payments. When paying a ticket online, the citizen Page 9 of 25
  10. 10. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 enters the offense code from their ticket and the assessed payment amount is automatically entered. Because of this, the clerks do not have to look up the fee amount associated with the offense; they just have to verify that the code input online matches the code on the physical ticket. Once the verification process is complete, the clerk clicks on the “payment in full” button and the system automatically sends the citizen an e-mail saying that their ticket payment has been received in full. 4. Easier for citizens to pay online The current 14A District Court website’s ticket payment functionality is viewed as easy for citizens to use. When paying online, the citizen needs only to “plug in their ticket number, the offense date and the offense (which is a dropdown menu on the website) and the system will automatically give them the fine that is due and accept the payment. It’s pretty easy”. With this system, it eliminates the need for citizens to make a trip to the Court to pay their fine in person or to buy a postage stamp and write a check and send their payment through U.S. postal mail system. “Another advantage is they can go online 24-7, Saturday, Sunday, all hours, which is just really, really convenient”. 5. Increased security With the previous version of the 14A District Court website the online payment functionality was not as secure as it is with the current system. The old system handled payments through Webmail. In essence, the citizen sent the Traffic Bureau an e-mail that contained their credit card number and expiration date. The clerk would then print out the e-mail, manually input the credit card information into the credit card processing machine and then go back into the system and send the citizen an e-mail advising them that the payment had been processed. This system was not as secure as today’s methodology where the credit card payments are handled by a third party vendor (Verisign). “This is much better as far as being secure with people’s information which is a very good thing”. In a survey conducted in 2004 by Cyber- state.org, a Michigan non-profit group, over half of the 1,000 Michigan residents who participated in the poll indicated that they were “very concerned” about personal information not being kept confidential3. The Court’s attention to this detail with their upgraded website should enhance citizen’s trust in utilizing this site for credit card payments. In another area of security, as hoped for in the original goals for the website, it is perceived that with the increase in online payments that the foot traffic at the Traffic Bureau window has decreased. With less people coming into the Court building, potential security risks are reduced. 6. Increase in online payments Prior to the revised 14A District Court Website, online payments amounted to less than five per week. With the new site, these payments have increased to 100 per week. Enablers for this increase have already been discussed in terms of the Website’s ease of use, convenience, and security. Additionally, with the old system, payments would only be accepted if they 3 “Information Technology in Michigan: June 2004”. Retrieved from Cyber-state.org on February 25, 2007 from http://www.altarum.org/annual_report/2004_ar/papers/cyber_MI%20IT%20Survey2004.pdf Page 10 of 25
  11. 11. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 were submitted within 21 days of the offense. After this timeframe, payments were considered late in the old system and a suspension fee assessed, their license revoked and the ability to pay online was removed. In the current system, even if license has been suspended, the new system simply adds the suspension fee and the citizen can still pay online. The success of these enablers is evident by the increase in online payments. 7. Wrong court payments cause adverse effects There are about 10 to 15 online payments on a weekly basis that are submitted incorrectly on the 14A District Court website for fines that are due to other courts, such as the 14B (Ypsilanti City) or 15th Court (Ann Arbor). The current website does not have the functionality to refuse payments for tickets that were not issued in the 14A jurisdiction. This has the tendency to cause adverse affects for the citizens in terms of the ten day fine payment grace period. The citizen, as noted earlier, after submitting their information online receives an automatic notification that their information has been received. Now it is up to the clerks to identify the wrong court payment within a timely manner so that the citizen can still pay the correct court within the ten day timeframe. This lack of discrimination by the site costs the Traffic Bureau to spend extra time on identifying these wrong payments, time spent on e- mailing the citizen notifying them of the error, and time spent on deleting the submission from their system. If the clerks do not catch the incorrect submission in time, then the citizen is assessed a late fee by the Court that they should have paid. This not only causes them adverse financial effects, but could also negatively affect their view of the general Court system’s customer service capabilities. IV. Recommendations It is clear that the 14A District Court Website has had a positive effect on all of the users of their website, both internal and external. As evidenced from the many positive comments that we received, the revisions that were made to the site have been a huge success. However, just as the current website built upon the efforts of the initial website to get to its improved state, we offer the following website and process enhancements to be entertained in the spirit of ongoing continuous improvement. 1. Modify online payment system to reject non-14A ticket numbers The adverse effects that are experienced due to wrong court payments could be alleviated if the online payment system recognized and prevented submission of non-14A ticket numbers. This recommendation came from one of the court clerks. She pointed out that each court has a unique ticketing number system. “If maybe when that wrong ticket number is put in it will say this is not an appropriate ticket number. I know ‘w’ tickets are for 14B court so if a ticket number starting with “w” was entered into our system, it will automatically say this is not a valid ticket number. I think that would cut down on some of the work”. The gains in Traffic Bureau efficiency and the improved customer relations makes this suggestion a valid one to consider following-up on. Page 11 of 25
  12. 12. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 2. Investigate electronic mobile device for ticket citations With the online ticket payment capability, infractions can be paid the same day that the ticket is received. This makes it very convenient for the fine-paying citizen, but handling the payment at the Traffic Bureau is not as streamlined, as they must wait for the physical ticket to reach their office before finalizing the process. If the tickets could be received on a daily basis, then the Traffic Bureau could process the payments in a more expedient manner. Converting from a manual to an electronic citation process would allow for citations to be downloaded to a host computer on a daily basis. This has time saving potential for the clerks and would eliminate the handling of paper tickets. It may also aid in averting unwarranted late fees as processing could happen more efficiently. The University of Michigan, Department of Public Safety, has been utilizing handheld electronic units for the past ten years and they have found it to be a reliable tool (Auto Cite)4. Benchmarking local systems may be a good way for the County to evaluate this potential investment. 3. Post 14A District Court’s URL address in conspicuous locations The 14A District Court website has been a resounding success by all who interface with it. More citizens could benefit from its contents if they were aware of the site’s existence. We recommend posting a notice at the entrance to the 14A building stating the URL for the site, along with a statement that traffic fines can be paid online at that address. With the advent of the security check that is required to enter the building (instated in 2006), we believe that many people would choose to return home to utilize their computers in order to circumvent this precautionary safety inspection. Also, an additional benefit of the Auto Cite recommendation above, should it be implemented, is the capability to design the ticket that the unit prints out. The URL could be incorporated into the ticket format, thus getting the website address into the hands of the citizens upon notification of their infraction. 4. Provide governmental (county) information to the public The public has been empowered by the usefulness of the website and because of the many features now available, are empowered to access this key, pertinent information at any time of their choosing. The link CITIZEN GUIDE can be tailored to the specific needs of callers who are unaware of the rights of citizens and the need to know county or governmental information not currently available. 5. Allow a sort feature for cases by column At the current time, there are four columns featured on the website: (1) Case Number, (2) Name of Defendant/Respondent, (3) Prosecuting Attorney, and (4) Type of Case. For ease of use, columns could be sorted alphabetically or by date to allow the public to review it in a manner that is beneficial to him/her. In addition, sorting by column may be useful to review the types of cases entering the system, and to provide necessary metrics for many departments at a glance. 4 Sergeant Rowe, Department of Public Safety, University of Michigan. April 12, 2007. Page 12 of 25
  13. 13. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 6. Provide an integrated marketing communication system At the current time, the only telephone number that advises callers to go online (at www.14adistrictcourt.org) is the 14A telephone number. The other telephone numbers, although linked to the 14A district court via the website, do not indicate the website at all in their recordings. In order to be more effective, all elements must adhere to the same message, as the value of the website provides callers with useful information that the public or listener can check without human intervention. This branding will be useful to the court and its support staff as a means of providing information as many questions and concerns can be answered online, at any time, and any place. 7. Provide additional services to the legal community One interviewee advised that criminal and civil cases are handled by the public defender's office; while another interviewee advised the ability to set hearings would be a useful feature to add to the website. At the current time, the website does not distinguish in any way the types of cases as the weekly docket update is imported in tabular format. This feature does tie into the sort feature indicated above; it would help to reduce or eliminate multiple communications with the courthouse. V. Graphic Representations For graphic representations, please see Appendix G. VI. Conclusion The collaborative effort between departments in the development of the website was useful to the public in many ways. Trust, empowerment and improved perception of the court are just some of the added benefits of the website implementation. The public is now empowered to access and receive information that they need, and this is but one measurement of the website's success. This necessarily eliminates telephone calls to the courthouse to find information that is now easily accessible online, as well as decreases traffic into the courthouse due to the online payment functionality. The value lies in knowing that specific information needed is now available online, which is very convenient and time-saving. In addition, many work processes of the traffic court and attorneys are more efficient in their services to the public. Attorneys can now navigate the online system to find the information that they need in order to be better prepared for their clients in the courtroom. The online traffic payment processing system is secure and the public can trust that the sensitive financial information that they send is protected. In conclusion, the 14A District Court Website does indeed live up to its award winning reputation. Page 13 of 25
  14. 14. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 VII. Appendices Appendix A – Structured Interview Questions Introduction Thank you for your time today. I am here today to spend some time with you to gain your feedback as to the outcomes that have resulted from the implementation of the 14A District Court website. This is for a class that I am in enrolled in at the School of Information at U of M. The class is called Outcome Based Evaluations of Programs and Services. This project allows me to gain skills in data collection and analysis methods. The results of our assessment will be shared with the County, with the hope that we will have gained some insights that are of value. (Review IRB form. Summarize back their responses to ensure that I heard correctly. Ask if there are any documents or records that would be of importance to share. Give feedback throughout that they are on track, good answers, etc. “That’s helpful” – could you give me more detail?) Interview Questions • What is your current assignment? • What was your assignment when the website was launched? • In what ways has the creation of the website changed the Court • What was the purpose of the implementation of the website? • How effective do you think the site has been in addressing these goals? • What are the most beneficial features of the website? • What types of information are more easily or less easily accessible from the site from your perspective? • In what ways has your team (department/work group) changed since the creation of the website? • What, if anything, can you do now that you couldn’t do before the website was implemented? (and the opposite Q) • What are the most valuable aspects of the website? (and least valuable) • How does the website help your clientele? • Has something changed as a result of the website that affects the Court or your work? • Suppose I were to observe the Traffic Court office before the website was implemented and after it was implemented. What would I see that is different? • Suppose another court from a different county wanted to create a similar site and asked your opinion about investing in such a site. What would you say? • IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU WOULD CARE TO ADD? (Thank them for their time and request if they can be contacted if there are follow-up questions) Page 14 of 25
  15. 15. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 Appendix B – Word Frequency Cloud Word Frequency Cloud generated by TagCrowd.com Appendix C – Sample Excel file worksheet utilized to gather quotes into themes Page 15 of 25
  16. 16. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 Appendix D – Traffic Bureau Outcomes/Activities/Input Table Outcomes Activities Inputs Quotes Increased Security Credit Card Computer & "(the old system) was through Webmail and it payments are done Internet access wasn’t as secure as what we should have had it. online through 14A Website This is much better as far as being secure with Verisign Citizen knowledge people’s information which is a very good Verisign vendor thing. We have Verisign doing the credit card transactions so we don’t actually have people’s credit card numbers. So we don’t have that information". "In the old system, we had their credit card number and expiration date because we had to manually enter on our credit card machine the actual number so that way we could actually process their payment. I’m very glad that they changed it". Decreased foot Security personnel "The online payment has really reduced the traffic to pay traffic Clerk time traffic in a big way". fines Clerk knowledge "with the ability to pay traffic tickets online, many individuals won’t need to come to court at all, which should help ease crowding and potential security risks". Imposed deadline Checking website Computer & "Well, we’ve had to implement a way to on task completion every other day Internet access process online payments in a timely manner 14A Website because the volume of payments that come in, Clerk time it’s almost like a full time job". Clerk knowledge "They will be assessed late fees if we don’t respond in a timely manner. So what we do is we go in quite often, every few days, and make sure that we don’t see payments that are for a different court". Pulling of tickets Computer & ". . .there is still a window of time before we get Internet access that ticket and once we get that ticket we have 14A Website to immediately pull it so that we can go ahead Tickets and take care of the online payment". Clerk time Clerk knowledge Processing online Computer & "After ten days a ticket has a late fee assessed." payments within Internet access ten days 14A Website “Our timeline is that we have to deal with is we Clerk time have to get the payments processed within 10 Clerk knowledge days of posting”. Page 16 of 25
  17. 17. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 Traffic Bureau Outcomes/Activities/Input Table (continued) Time spent on Activity: Outcomes Increase/ Activities Inputs Quotes Decrease/ Not sure Opening mail US mail "But I think it’s just shortened up the Work containing Clerk time paperwork . You don’t have to open a piece Content has fine payments Clerk knowledge of mail and then match it to the file". changed Processing Credit card "Before we used to have to ring credit card Credit Card machine payments manually, whereas on this one payments via Credit card number you just go in and click “okay” and dial up Clerk time someone else processes that payment for us machine Clerk knowledge and it gives us a reference number”. (with the old system) "We had to manually go back into our system saying that their payment was received, so this is much faster". Sending US mail "If they still owe money because they were letters/e-mails Computer & late then we have to send them a letter". notifying Internet access citizen of E-mail address “If they can pay online that limits or overdue 14A website reduces the likelihood of that ticket, or the payment Clerk time payment, being late”. Clerk knowledge Creating files Tickets “. . .even though there may be a few less Clerk time payments in the mail and they are getting ? Clerk knowledge Folders them online, it’s still the same amount of work”. Matching up Internet & "A defendant can pay their ticket before it’s tickets to Computer Access in our system." payments Tickets Payments (online, "If they get a ticket today and go online to in person, mail) pay today, well there is still a window of ? 14A website time before we get that ticket and once we Clerk knowledge get that ticket we have to immediately pull Clerk time it so that we can go ahead and take care of the online payment". Taking Foot traffic "We can devote more time to other duties payments at Payments because we don’t have as many customers the window Clerk knowledge coming in to make payments". ? Clerk time "You will spend all day at the counter you won’t get anything else done but that. If it’s decreased, I didn’t see it". Page 17 of 25
  18. 18. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 Traffic Bureau Outcomes/Activities/Input Table (continued) Time spent on Activity: Outcomes Increase/ Activities Inputs Quotes Decrease/ Not sure Work Answering Incoming calls "The phones are constantly ringing". Content has phones Phones changed Clerk knowledge "I think it has also cut down on phone calls (continued) Clerk time as far as the criminal side goes because they have the New Cases Entered, so attorneys can go on there and look and see if the case that they entered their ? appearance on has been filed already". "And the lists of fines and costs for most common tickets is also very helpful to try to cut back on the amount of phone calls. Traffic seems to get a lot of those. Sometimes the phones ring non-stop over there". Sending e- Computer & “They will make the online payment, mails/letters Internet access they’ll receive a confirmation that they that fine has E-mail address actually made the payment, and once we been Mailing address process it we send them another ? processed 14A website confirmation (by e-mail) letting them know Clerk knowledge that we actually updated our system”. Clerk time Processing Computer & "I think that it definitely created an entire online Internet access new position that they might not have payments Online payments expected. Dealing with the online Traffic tickets payments where people can pay their 14A website tickets". Verisign Vendor Clerk knowledge "They make an online payment here, it Clerk time places a hold on their card, but we still have to process it on our end". "It’s made it more busy. More work by processing the payments that come through the online system now". Page 18 of 25
  19. 19. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 Traffic Bureau Outcomes/Activities/Input Table (continued) Time spent on Activity: Outcomes Increase/ Activities Inputs Quotes Decrease/ Not sure Work Sending e- Computer & "If they posted a payment that should have Content has mails Internet access been paid at the 15th district court we send changed notifying Ticket number them an e-mail that they are cancelling the (continued) citizens of Online submission order and send an e-mail saying it was wrong court E-mail address cancelled and why. It happens roughly payments 14A website about 10-15 payments/week Clerk knowledge approximately". Clerk time "So you sometimes do have a lot of people who are paying at the wrong court so then you have to deal with that". Tabulating Computer & "The whole office has to break down credit and balancing Internet access payments the dollar amount that was online Reports accepted at the counter and the dollar payments vs. Payments amount that was accepted online. So they physical 14A website have to make sure that they balance both of payments Clerk knowledge those figures". Clerk time "at the end of the month balances what the report says we received and then accepted in online payments as opposed to what we really received. It gives frustration sometimes but overall it’s minimal". Training New New clerks "There are training issues with the clerks in Clerks Knowledgeable teaching them how to get online and how to trainer receive the payments and accept the Computer & payments if they haven’t put in the right Internet access amount. But again, you train the clerks, 14A Website you give them the foundation that they need and then they are fairly self sufficient". Checking Computer & "(checks the website) Every other day". website Internet Access 14A Website "We have to make sure that we go on there Clerk knowledge (the website) and process those payments in Clerk time a timely manner. We didn’t have that before, so now we have to make sure that the clerks go to that website and process those payments timely". Filing folders Tickets "You still have to pull the file, and process Payments the file and the payment". Folders ? Clerk knowledge "We still have to ring something in on our Clerk time end, and then we file it if it’s closed". Page 19 of 25
  20. 20. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 Traffic Bureau Outcomes/Activities/Input Table (continued) Outcomes Activities Inputs Quotes Increase in online Online payments Computer & "It’s increased the amount from people payments Internet access who did not come in or would not have Citizen knowledge paid at all". 14A website Physical ticket "The old online system was not the Credit Card greatest. The new has created a lot more Clerk knowledge payments coming in". Clerk time "It’s significantly increased the amount of money that we are taking in on tickets". "I think there is more income coming in because more people tend to do things online now days". Easier for citizens to pay Logon to website Computer & "They can just go online from home and online vs the old system Internet access make their payment. So it’s Citizen knowledge convenient". 14A website Input data from Computer & They just go to the website, plug in their ticket Internet access ticket number, the offense date and the Citizen knowledge offense (which is a dropdown menu on 14A website the website) and the system will Physical ticket automatically give them the fine that is due and accept the payment. It’s pretty easy. Input credit card Computer & “. . there’s buttons you can click on and data, e-mail data, Internet access it will just say ‘payment in full’ and it personal data 14A website just sends them back an e-mail to the e- Citizen knowledge mail address that they sent it from Valid Credit Card saying that their ticket was received in full”. Submit information Computer & "I get a lot of customers that call in and Internet access they just say, wow, it’s just so easy to 14A website pay my ticket". Citizen knowledge Citizen data "They will make the online payment, they’ll receive a confirmation that they actually made the payment” Page 20 of 25
  21. 21. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 Traffic Bureau Outcomes/Activities/Input Table (continued) Outcomes Activities Inputs Quotes Wrong court payments Holds placed on Computer & "The only drawback is that it allows the cause adverse effects credit cards Internet access defendant to post a payment for a Citizen different court (such as 15th court or knowledge 14B). That’s a drawback. They can post 14A website a payment that’s out of the 15th district Physical ticket court. We won’t process it but it puts a Credit Card hold on their card. When they make an Clerk knowledge online payment there are two steps. Clerk time They make an online payment here, it places a hold on their card, but we still have to process it on our end. It places a hold for that particular amount. Late fees assessed Computer & "Their ticket may be filed at 15th district Internet access court, they go on our website, and pay it. 14A website 15th district court doesn’t know it so they Physical ticket can default and they will be assessed late Credit Card fees if we don’t respond in a timely Elapsed time manner". Time spent Computer & "If they posted a payment that should addressing wrong Internet access have been paid at the 15th district court court payments 14A website we send them an e-mail that they are Clerk time cancelling the order and send an e-mail Clerk knowledge saying it was cancelled and why. (They give the customer the phone number of the correct court) It happens roughly about 10-15 payments/week approximately. We get approximately 100 payments per week (online)". Page 21 of 25
  22. 22. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 Appendix E – IT Department Outcomes/Activities/Input Table Outcome: Provide user- Activity: IT delivers website that Input: IT department available to assist friendly 14A district court allows public to access frequently in the maintenance and upkeep of the website for public use requested, up-to-date information website; "the site is user friendly" about the 14A district court Outcome: Provide useful, Activity: IT trains court coordinator IT department provided forms and relevant, heavy demand to modify weekly updated docket received feedback from legal community information on the website for calendars for docket/calendar link as to what is most frequently requested legal community on website which results in information; (back and forth calling to the efficiencies in the public defender's courthouse); "This was a waste of time office and resources, as we could be tied up with telephone calls back and forth to the court" Outcome: Provide support Activity: IT purchased open-source "Just recently, I took a call which was services to those who utilize software to create a consistent look very cordial. I did an email of summary open-source software code and feel across departments (conversation over the telephone) and it (Zope) was not defensive. I come from a library background so I put on my "library hat" and asked essential questions. You try to calm them (the customer/client) down. "Decentralization is important, but we offer centralized support, which is important as well. We strike a careful balance between the two." & "… now we are reaping the benefits of a successful tool" Outcome: Facilitate payments Activity: IT utilized Java-enabled IT department collaborated with Java team of fines for Washtenaw software to provide a means of to develop a web form to capture credit County capturing information online in a card information securely using SSL secure manner Outcome: Broaden knowledge Activity: IT evolves into a new way "This was the first judicial system we had of IT staff of doing business - collaboratively done… This was groundbreaking for us. extending their social (work) More care and thought went into 14A than networks any other site we had created." Outcome: Deepen Activity: IT department members "For instance, there were more meetings commitment to collaborative met with attorneys, judges, court (number and frequency), there were more efforts between groups administrators and staff to complete expansive discussions prior to the design, a workable, usable website and this was a great benefit" & "We've always emphasized communication" Outcome: Satisfy the Activity: IT department acquired "Initially, we had created a brown colored customer the Zope Content Management theme which looked really nice and System and customized the look to picked up the colors of the judicial bench the specifications of the court graphic. Judge Simpson was very concerned; he told us to change the color to purple because "purple is legal". His concern was that the site "look legal". We changed the color because ultimately, the customer is always right" Page 22 of 25
  23. 23. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 IT Department Outcomes/Activities/Input Table (continued) Outcome: An unexpected Activity: IT department empowers Input: "Our training and support is a model evolves the customer, can be useful for liaison model. That model says that those other groups, and benefits the who care most should maintain their sites department, as well as the client(s) - going back to Andy's push - and whoever cares about these assets should maintain their (own) sites" "It (Zope software) improves their chances of success" "14-B was willing to accept what 14-A completed" Outcome: Cost-Benefits Activity: IT department acquires "Zope allows us - through open source savings to Washtenaw County and customizes Zope software to software (no licensing fees) - it is WHY meet the needs of their client(s) we can do this" "What Zope has done is pretty remarkable. Compared to Microsoft, where we'd only have two sites: the public site and the employee website, due to the (high) cost of licensing fees" Outcome: Empowerment of Activity: IT department, through "Projects were prioritized, and this the customer training and support services, stemmed from Andy Brush's commitment, empowers the customer to become his push that more and more people and self-sufficient organizations and the community need ownership of the web content - with the thrust of Web 2.0 and building communities" Outcome: Recognition that Activity: IT department utilizes "Judge Simpson was instrumental - teamwork is a necessary internal and external sources to specifically, he provided us with the component of a successful provide features that are useful and information to accept online ticket product relevant to the purpose of the payments. We then went to the Java website Team for this and they were able to help with that. That (online ticket payments) is a key component of the site" Page 23 of 25
  24. 24. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 Appendix F – Public Defenders Outcomes/Activities/Input Table Outcome: Provide useful Activity: Attorneys utilize "New Input: Access is easy to find utilizing information to public requests Cases and Docket" feature of the new 14A district court "Lawyer's for information relating to website to cater the message to their Briefcase" feature; "The most helpful civil and criminal cases clients' particular needs feature of the site from this office's perspective is the Docket (Calendar) feature because it allows them to view new cases filed" Outcome: Keep abreast of Activity: Attorneys can access the With online access, 24/7 accessibility is new developments in the court judges "Docket/Calendar" feature convenient and easy to find; there is for current information updated "information at our fingertips" weekly Outcome: Help work Activity: Attorneys can see a "We use it for scheduling (our attorneys) processes - or not schedule a week in advance, by reviewing the judge's docket" allowing them to plan their "We can plan and schedule in advance" scheduling accordingly "I don't really think it's changed - I mean the number of cases has not intensified or increased" Outcome: Change perception Activity: Attorneys see a difference This new site is "updated very regularly" of the court between the old site and the newly as opposed to the old site which was "not improved website as responsive" and "was not updated on a regular basis" Outcome: Additional Activity: Attorneys indicate "Inact keeps track of docket information, information may be needed additional information would be cases, and even Friend of the Court cases, for attorney (daily) usage useful as an additional feature of the particularly misdemeanor and felonies, website which is what we deal with (here)" Outcome: Resourcefulness of Activity: Attorneys indicate value in "This site definitely saves our office time website features contribute to the time and money saving features and money" as we must schedule our office effectiveness of the website public defender's according to the number of cases on the judge's docket. Outcome: Emotional response Activity: Attorneys display an Input:"14A has a very good website", from availability of useful emotional response to the "I am impressed", "They did a great job information at the website information now available at all on this" & "It's fabulous - I am a big fan" times Outcome: Less stressful for Activity: Attorneys notice a (The wait) "This would be humiliating to the public difference in the stress level of that person because their life was put "on clients who had to wait for hold" in anxious waiting for what would information via telephone or email happen to them, and was particularly before the website became available distressing to someone who may have already had a warrant out for their arrest" Page 24 of 25
  25. 25. 14A District Court Website Assessment April 17, 2007 Appendix G – Graphic Representation Page 25 of 25