An Open-Source System for Electronic Court Filing

State and federal courts in the US are standardizing on XML for court documents and on open-source management systems to store and index them.
The Open XML Court Interface

The Open XML Court Interface (OXCI) initiative was started in March 2000, but it finally got off the ground in mid-2003. Its goal is to develop an open-source version of an EFM. Eleven states have sponsored the initial development and actively take part in the OXCI consortium. The project is being led by the AOCs of Georgia and Washington State. The legal community across the country is anxiously watching the OXCI Project. In January 2004, OXCI was ready to fund development.

OpenEFM, the open-source EFM supported by counterclaim, was used as a point of reference many times by the OXCI team as they worked on an outline for the project requirements and architectural design. After submitting a response to the AOC of Georgia's Request for Proposals regarding the OXCI EFM Project, counterclaim was selected to complete the project development and to provide continuing support. The development of the OXCI EFM is slated to be complete in June 2004, after which three courts will be configured to use the new, open-source system. Once success has been demonstrated, it is likely that more courts across the US will adopt the OXCI EFM.

Vince Harris, leader of this project for the AOC of Georgia, had the following to say about OXCI: “It has taken a lot of work and effort by many different people to get us to this point, but we are excited to be here. With the amount of backing and support the OXCI Project has received, we have a great opportunity to help solve the electronic filing problem. Since the EFM will be available at no cost to the courts, we also feel that our solution has the potential to be very widespread.”

Current State

At some future point, all courts will offer some form of electronic filing. In fact, many jurisdictions have passed legislation mandating such services be made available. By educating the legal community about available open-source solutions, there is a great chance that the court community could pool its resources and come together to adopt a solution that addresses its common needs. OXCI is working to provide that open-source solution. The OASIS Legal XML Member Section is in a great position to pick and choose the best features from various specification attempts in order to provide an open industry-endorsed standard to go along with the open-source EFM. With any luck, and a whole lot of elbow grease, an open-source approach may become the standard solution endorsed by our judicial system as the best method to solve the electronic filing problem.

Resources for this article: /article/7492.

Jim Beard has worked in the court software industry for several years. He has participated in a number of different electronic filing projects and is currently involved in the OXCI and 2GEFS Projects. He can be reached at beard@counterclaim.com.

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Pika, pikasoftware.net, has a very good foundation (LAMP) and has a following in NPO legal services. I must admit I don't use it, but that's because we have an albatros of a system we aren't ready to ditch.

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