Most courts create large numbers of documents for each case they hear. When a civil case goes from a trial court to an appellate court, all the documents related to that case—called the civil clerk’s transcript—must be copied and transported to the appellate court, a labor-intensive process often involving thousands of sheets of paper. In 2008, the Fifth Appellate District of the Court of Appeal in Fresno moved to streamline this process, proposing to create an electronic transcript file that is identical to the paper version.
The court anticipated a number of benefits from an electronic version of the civil clerk’s transcript. First, the file could easily be forwarded from the superior court to the appellate court as well as to all attorneys involved in the case. Clerks could easily cut and paste any information needed by the justices into the attorney-prepared documents at the court. In addition, the court predicted that it would save time: The nine trial courts in the Fifth Appellate District prepare about 225 transcript files per year and were spending an average of 10 hours on each one. Creating a paper transcript involves photocopying each document in the file, manually compiling the documents, and assembling them into the required volumes.
The Transcript Assembly Program, or TAP, as it is called, was developed under the leadership of the Fifth Appellate District of the Court of Appeal, in consultation with the nine trial courts. Initial funding for the project came from general funds budgeted for technical improvements in the Fifth Appellate District. IKON Office Solutions provided the necessary expertise to develop TAP, and in June 2009 the program was ready for testing by the trial courts.
A planning grant from the State Justice Institute supported pilot projects with the Superior Courts of Stanislaus and Fresno Counties. After completing their user testing of TAP, these two courts began electronic transmission of civil clerk’s transcripts to the Court of Appeal in early 2011. Then, in June 2011, the Court of Appeal received another grant from the State Justice Institute for implementation of TAP at the seven other trial courts in the Fifth Appellate District. According to Charlene Ynson, the clerk/administrator for the Fifth Appellate District of the Court of Appeal, the court plans to have all nine trial courts in the district employing TAP by June 2012.
The Superior Court of Fresno County has determined that, under TAP, its staff can prepare a civil clerk’s transcript for the Court of Appeal in approximately half the time it takes to create a paper version, due to the ability to work with documents in electronic form. When all nine trial courts in the district are on board, it is estimated that the savings will total $75,000 each year. The courts also save money by reducing costs for storage, postage, and paper. As anticipated, other benefits include the ability to share files electronically and to cut and paste documents. Further, the electronic transcripts have increased access to the files for everyone, including the public. TAP is now a proven, cost-effective system that other courts can easily replicate. In California, TAP is unique in the benefits it brings to the trial courts and to the Fifth Appellate District of the Court of Appeal.
The court is willing to share the TAP application with courts outside the Fifth Appellate District. Costs for implementing the TAP system in each trial court range from $10,000 to $30,000, depending on what hardware and software are already in place. Savings, however, can be substantial.
The transcripts, including customizable indices, are compiled and prepared using an automated process and are electronically transmitted from the superior courts to the Court of Appeal. TAP avoids the time- and labor-intensive process of compiling several volumes of paper transcripts and transporting them to the Court of Appeal.
|Benefits for the Public
||Benefits for the Courts:|
- Improves access to electronic court records
- Enhances services to self-represented litigants
- Improves the business processes of the superior courts and of the Court of Appeal
- Dramatically reduces staff time spent preparing transcripts
- Reduces paper use and storage costs
- Saves $75,000 annually
Ms. Charlene Ynson, Clerk/Administrator