Effective Fall of 2012, the California Court of Appeals, Fifth Appellate District (5DCA)began receiving electronic clerk’s transcripts for civil cases from all nine of the trial courts within its jurisdiction. With an SJI grant award (SJI-11-N-151), the Court established the Transcript Assembly Program (TAP) for all trial courts within its jurisdiction. TAP is a software program that automates the trial court’s labor intensive process of compiling a civil clerk’s transcript and produces an electronic record that can be securely transmitted to the appellate court.
TAP started as a pilot project (SJI-09-T-160) between the 5DCA and the Superior Courts of Fresno and Stanislaus Counties. The first grant enabled the 5DCA and these select courts to conduct an assessment and determine how to implement the TAP solution in the remaining seven trial courts. Using TAP, the pilot trial courts reduced their appellate case processing workload by approximately 50 percent, partially offsetting their staffing reductions during this fiscal crisis. “It frees up clerks within our trial court’s appellate division to cross train and to work on other projects,” said Stephanie Kennedy, Operations Manager for the Superior Court of Stanislaus County. “We’ve been able to move some staff around to help other areas of the court that need backup and assistance, especially during these tough fiscal times when we have frozen positions within the court.”
In addition to savings for the trial courts, the 5DCA no longer receives lengthy, printed records that need to be mailed or photocopied. “With the push of a button, any size transcript can be delivered electronically to our court,” said Charlene Ynson, Court Administrator/Clerk for 5DCA. “Electronic records provide the court significant savings. Otherwise we could spend thousands of dollars to store, retrieve, and move large records throughout the review process.”
The results of TAP have been outstanding in the view of 5DCA and Courts. Since completion of the grant in October 2012, many of the trial courts are using this solution to electronically compile and file many other case types other than just civil cases. To date, just under 500 electronic records have been filed throughout the jurisdiction. All trial courts are filing civil appeals electronically; several are filing criminal; in addition to some juvenile and dependency cases. The staff time savings has been significant for the trial courts. The trial courts estimate they save 50 percent of staff time using TAP to compile their civil transcripts. If the record requires correction, they save 100 percent of staff time because they no longer have to manually correct paper and reassemble, copy, and send – they can just make the correction, “re-tap”, and e-transmit the record. This results in a significant savings of time where multiple volumes are involved. Some trial courts have reported over 80 percent time savings on dependency cases.
The 5DCA continues to experience its greatest savings in terms of storage. While there has been some acclimation to working with an electronic record, court staff do not have to create file folders for upwards of 40 or more volumes of a record. Therefore, staff no longer has to send these records to storage at the end of their life cycle and the savings is significant. In a cost study recently completed by the 5DCA, a savings of 50 percent of staff time is realized when they were able to receive and store records electronically.
The 5DCA and the Superior Courts of Fresno and Stanislaus Counties received the 2010-11 Ralph N. Kleps Collaborative Award for Improvement in the Administration of the Courts for the successful deployment of TAP. The SJI grant helped support the deployment of TAP to the remaining seven trial courts within the 5DCA’s jurisdiction: Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Tulare, and Tuolumne. The 5DCA hopes to expand the TAP program to all case types so it can redirect record storage savings into other areas of court operations.