Court system puts on new face

As a way to extend the life of its legacy system, Alabama's court system has integrated a browser-based application so some users can get information in an easier-to-read format.

The state's Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) is a unified court system, meaning all courthouses throughout the state are tied to the agency via a mainframe computer. Last fall, AOC installed WinJa software, developed by Atlanta-based Seagull Software, to modernize the traditional "green screen" applications of its State Judicial Information System.

The information system "is a wonderful system that provides all kinds of information," said Jack Doane, information technology manager for AOC ({http://www.alacourt.org} www.alacourt.org). "But because of its nature, you have to know a lot of the codes. You have to learn your way around the system.

"What we wanted to do was start allowing new judges, judicial assistants, district attorneys and other law enforcement agencies ways to get into the system without having to know the system," he said.

With the mainframe system — which processes about 800,000 transactions a day — users need a coaxial cable or a systems network architecture-type connection, Doane said, but the new integrated application enables some users, via a secure password/log-in, to access data via the Internet or an intranet.

The product creates new front ends for the data. "In other words, we can provide multiple screens [of the State Judicial Information System] into a notebook-style display where [users] can press the different tabs and get the different groupings of information," he said. "Like demographic information can be in one tab, and then case information, or sentencing information."

A district attorney's system, written on the mainframe, will be put out with a WinJa user interface, he added, as well as a statewide index where users can search for a name, case type or select a county. WinJa also allows other systems to be integrated. For example, users can retrieve and view court documents through an image database, Doane said.

About 50 to 70 people have been accessing the integrated system since January. There are 3,000 to 3,500 users of the State Judicial Information System.

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