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Four years after the Pennsylvania appellate courts made their online debut, criminal court will make its first official Internet appearance in July 2003, giving an automated case processing system a dry run, Chief Justice Stephen A. Zappala announced last week. Bucks, Cumberland and Westmoreland counties in Pennsylvania will serve as test pilots for the Internet project, also known as the Common Pleas Criminal Court Case Management System (CPCMS). The three counties were selected based on location, proximity to urban areas and access to technological resources, said Art Heinz, communications coordinator for the administrative office. “There was a deliberate effort to pick a cross-representation of Pennsylvania and what its needs were going to be,” Heinz said. The selected counties represent the east, west and central regions of the commonwealth, and are also proximate to Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. The trial courts in these counties will test the system for a three-month period beginning July 2003. Users will evaluate the system on everything from training for judges and support staff, data conversion, fines, fees and costs. At the end of the trial period, the system will be overhauled, eliminating any discovered glitches, before being implemented across the rest of the state. The CPCMS is expected to be rolled out statewide no later than January 2005, Heinz said. Work on the CPCMS began in early 2001. While the system is not yet complete, it is expected to be fully functional by its July 2003 deadline. Developers hope that the CPCMS will help Pennsylvania move away from the segregated county automated criminal court systems now in place. Currently, these systems cannot share information on defendants, warrants and dockets. The new system is expected to allow information to flow through the criminal courts. When the system is up and running in all 67 Pennsylvania counties, case processing is expected to be more efficient, and data about filings and cases will be able to be shared within the state’s judicial branch. The CPCMS will eventually be linked to the commonwealth’s justice network and will provide information from criminal courts to branches of the state’s executive government. This is not the state court system’s first venture into Internet-based automated systems. In 1992, the Automated District Justice System went online, and in 1995, Pennsylvania became the second state in the country to launch a public Web site for its courts. In 1996, the state supreme court began making its opinions available on the Internet, and in 1999, the Pennsylvania Appellate Court Management System became available on the Web. After the criminal side is up and running, the state will move toward automated online systems for the rest of the civil division.

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