Monday, August 12, 2013

Welcome to the Judicial Information Super Highway

In Maine the Judiciary is proud to point out that anyone can sift through cases that are finished. Only to do so will require going to the court house and looking though dusty boxes of papers that have your case or the case of someone else..

It is a 19th century filing system in the 21st century.

Imagine going to a branch of your bank and asking for an account balance. The teller cannot  give you your balance and that you must go to the branch where you made the deposit!  Or you call your credit card for account information and you are told that they are counting your charges on paper slips. Your information will be mailed to you. Would this be acceptable? No - of course not in this day and age - you want this information right away and it is available. Electronically.

In our courts this just does not happen.

You cannot look up your case online (unless your case goes before the Supreme Court). You cannot see whether your Guardian ad litem is working on just your case or 50 others - because it is not online. What cases are being heard today in your court - don't go online to find out because it is not there.  About the only thing that the courts have online is the address and contact information you need to get a court official in your court.

The Family Law Advisory Commission (FLAC) has come out with a glowing report for the battered Guardian ad litem program. FLAC comes out and indicates that GALs have played an essential role in family proceedings. That Guardians ad litem have been "instrumental in assuring positive" outcomes for children. FLAC goes further in stating that judges value the services of these Guardians ad litem highly. Guardians ad litem are responsive and professional as seen by the court system.

Yet where is the data to back up these accolades for Guardians ad litem? The data is in cardboard boxes sitting in the corners of our court houses. How many members of FLAC do you think went to our court houses to sift through the 'data' that is housed there? More than likely - None.  In other words the data used for the report - much like the data the courts appear to use - is based on the "feeling" or subjective opinion that Guardians ad litem are doing a great job. There are no hard numbers. There is no data. Well there is but for the sake of repeating - that data is in cardboard boxes sitting in the dark corners of our court houses. All readily accessible  by driving from court house to court house.

There is a demand for hard data in the new law...


The alternative is buying Chief Justice Saufley a speedy motor scooter so she can get on the Judicial Information Super highway and search those cardboard for that glowing Guardian ad litem data.

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