The NC Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) announced plans for a new case management system called Odyssey Integrated Case Management System in August.
“It’s part of the North Carolina Judicial Branch’s transformative eCourts initiative to take the state court system from paper to digital,” said Andrew T. Heath, NCAOC director, in a written statement.
“Presently, people can go to a clerk’s office and do searches on CIPRS (for criminal and infraction cases) and VCAP Inquiry (for non-criminal cases). Licensed Remote Public Access users can obtain information via extracts and direct searches using other technologies,” explained Graham Wilson, communications director for the NC Judicial Branch.
“The new Odyssey suite will replace 40+ older legacy systems and integrate all of these products into one streamlined case management solution, including eFiling, financial management, and document management for all case types,” wrote Heath.
Odyssey will be used by the entire judicial branch, including clerks, judges, district attorneys, public defenders, and magistrates. Law firms will be using File & Serve and/or Guide & File to electronically file in counties that have gone live on Odyssey.
“All case types will be managed in Odyssey. However, searches for case information in Portal (the online search tool) will be limited to case types that are not confidential by law. For example, criminal and civil cases will have information available in Portal, but juvenile cases will not. Information will be limited to North Carolina district and superior court cases from counties that have gone live on Odyssey,” said Wilson.
“Odyssey will be implemented in groups of counties over a two-three year period. For information from counties that have gone live on Odyssey, information will be available in Odyssey or Portal. For counties that have not yet gone live on Odyssey, information will be available in existing legacy systems,” said Wilson.
Changes Are Coming
“A lot of folks may not know these changes are coming.” said Sarah Price, vice president of CourtLogic. The 22-year-old Fuquay-Varina-based company provides clients with North Carolina court data via its remote public access account as well as driving histories from across the country.
The AOC’s planned pilot launch for Odyssey in Harnett, Johnston, Lee, and Wake counties has been delayed while the vendor completes development work and ensures that court information is properly flowing to partner agencies, such as law enforcement.
Once pilot counties go live, it will take approximately two years to complete the phased rollout to the remaining 96 counties, according to the AOC. Mecklenburg is the next county slated to go live after the four pilot counties. Until counties are transitioned, access to records will still use the AOC’s Automated Criminal/Infractions System (ACIS) and Civil Case Processing System (VCAP).
“For the next couple of years, depending on which county you need, you will use the Odyssey or the legacy system. You’ll have to go to two different places, depending on what information you need. We will have a one-stop-shop like we always have,” said Price.
“We’re going to connect to both systems so our customers will be able to run statewide, and it will access the data they need from either system behind the scenes, so clients don’t even know that they are accessing two different systems if they are doing a statewide search,” said Price. “The results will be instant, in real-time, and straight from the source.”
“We will provide the exact same information coming from the exact same source as we have for 20 years. You won’t have to click something new. Same access. Same user interface,” said Lee Lloyd, president and co-founder of CourtLogic. “We don’t use a third-party database. We have direct connections to the AOC. We’ve made it user-friendly to bill back to the clients.”
With every search, clients enter a timekeeper and a file number that is for their internal client matter, name or number. There is no setup cost or minimum, and billing is monthly.
Same As It Ever Was
“A lot of younger attorneys don’t know we exist,” said Price. “They are still going or sending staff to the courthouses to check records. We eliminate that. The lawyers or their staff can simply log in and get real time instant access to North Carolina court data.
“When we first started, we met with attorneys and paralegals across the state to ensure we created a service that met their needs, judges had not seen an attorney walk into a courtroom with a court record from CourtLogic,” recalled Lloyd. “But now, after all these years, everyone knows if a lawyer walks in representing someone and they’ve got court data that came from us, they know it came straight from the original source.”
CourtLogic saw a spike in business during the pandemic as lawyers were not able to walk into a courthouse, sit down at terminals, and access data. Divorce filings are up, and the boom in real estate in NC has demand for the company’s real estate research.
“We are excited about the opportunities that come with modernizing the court system, including increased efficiency, collaboration, and access to justice. While we believe this is extremely positive, we also understand that this is a very big change for the legal community,” said Heath.
“We’re well prepared for the coming changes, and you won’t see any interruption, and you won’t have to do anything different,” said Lloyd.