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Atlanta-When Robert Taylor came to work five years ago as the chief information officer for Fulton County, Ga., he said he inherited a “weak and fragmented” organization in which department heads ruled over their technological domains like private fiefdoms. The district attorney’s office wanted one software application for its operations; the jail chose another. The public defender and the clerk’s office opted for two other methods. “It was a very decentralized [information technology] governance model in which most departments felt they had to provide their own IT services,” Taylor said. These days, the county’s technology guru has big plans for Fulton’s court system and related areas, such as the jail and law enforcement. And it’s not all about software: In the wake of the March 11 shootings at the Atlanta courthouse, Taylor’s staff has been working with the sheriff’s office and the county’s general services department to come up with security improvements at the courthouse, such as cameras in the courtrooms, remote-control elevators and exit doors, and upgraded video monitors in the sheriff’s central control room. But improving the county’s technology-the criminal justice system’s resources in particular-seems to come in starts and stops, subject to the whims of Fulton County’s leaders, budget constraints and ever-changing priorities. Taylor recently spoke with the Daily Report, a sister publication to the NLJ, about his plans to improve the technology offerings of Fulton County, which includes Atlanta. “What we’re trying to do . . . is to integrate these disparate systems between the various departments as closely as possible for the sharing of data and improving the accuracy of the data,” he said. His strategic plan offers a glimpse of what may be in store to help judges and lawyers work more smoothly with the system. Among the projects slated to begin this year is the “E-bench,” a software system designed to help judges manage cases. The $200,000 application, which is in the planning stages of a pilot program and has not been approved by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, will allow judges to access case management data, case summaries and defendant histories “at their fingertips,” according to the plan. It may be available as early as February. ‘Convenience fee’ revenue The plan also calls for “E-filing” in Fulton’s superior and state courts. This technology, which generates revenue through “convenience fees” and already is used on a limited basis in both courts, would be expanded to permit attorneys to file documents via the Web. Taylor’s plan calls for the system to be completed by Jan. 15. He said the state court proposal may go to the Board of Commissioners this week, but the superior court project would not be ready until later. Another initiative involves judges’ conducting arraignments and other hearings via video conferencing. The county recently conducted a test of the technology in which a judge sits in a room at the courthouse and inmates come into a room at the jail for a hearing. According to Terry Gates, who is Taylor’s deputy director, the judges were able to dispatch about 50 cases in each 312-hour session. Gates noted that video conferencing could alleviate the mounting backlog of criminal cases. The courthouse’s holding-cell capacity is limited to 225, but more inmates could be seen via video conferencing. One of the largest projects Taylor has been developing involves an upgrade of the jail’s inmate-tracking technology, an antiquated system that played a part last year when inmates experienced delays in being released.

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