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Pilot program allows greater access to criminal case information in the 11th Circuit

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Miami-Dade Clerk's OfficeAs a part of a countywide effort to expand the use of technology to better meet the justice needs of its citizens, the Miami-Dade Clerk of Court has launched a pilot program to grant online access to documents in criminal and traffic court cases.

The pilot is a stopgap measure while the clerk’s office works with the 11th Judicial Circuit and Miami-Dade County to design a new, more robust criminal case management system. The launch date for that system is still several years away.

As South Florida attorneys and court officers are keenly aware, the current criminal court case information system in Miami-Dade County is antiquated.

“There’s no paperless system in Miami-Dade’s criminal court system,” Miami-Dade Interim Clerk Luis G. Montaldo said. “The CIS (case information system) currently in place is a legacy system that’s been there for decades.”

While Miami-Dade County has been doing everything it can to work efficiently within the current system, as a practicing attorney, the criminal case system is “just a sore point,” he said.

“It was really hurting the criminal bar to get case files. It really puts them at a disadvantage,” Montaldo said.

While procurement has taken place and development has begun on the new criminal case information system, Montaldo said it will not be operational until 2025, and he wanted to get criminal case information to participants quicker.

“I think we have some tools available to us,” Montaldo said. “We need to provide them with a lifeboat to get them to this 2025 date. These people want help now.”

Due to the constraints of the current CIS, accessing court documents in traffic and criminal cases often required in person or other time-consuming requests. This new initiative will expand access by allowing users to view court documents from their personal devices in real time.

The first phase of the program involves traffic citations, which constitute most of the court documents. This phase is now live and available for public access here.

Available in early summer, the second phase will allow attorneys of record to access criminal cases documents online.

“Giving attorneys access to court documents on their computer and not having to go downtown to access information will really help,” Montaldo said. “Hopefully, it will expedite court calendars as well.”

Montaldo said the pandemic required his circuit to leverage technology to provide remote access to the court and that the availability of these documents is critical.

“I understand the importance of timely access to court documents,” Montaldo said. “I am so proud that my team has been able to deliver this pilot program to the public and my fellow justice partners.”

Montaldo said that while his pilot program does not address all the gaps in the criminal case information system, something is better than nothing.

“The analogy I’d use is you’re riding a skateboard, and someone offers you a motorcycle,” Montaldo said. “Sure, you’d rather have a car, but a motorcycle’s better than a skateboard.”

Montaldo said his team has been working overtime with an out-of-the-box approach to the case information system and it has truly been a team effort.

“Transparency to our justice system is critical and it’s paramount for me,” Montaldo said.

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