Judges Leverage Full-Text Searching

by Jenny Bunch, Mentis Technology

Published in Court Technology Bulletin

With mandatory efiling becoming the new norm in states like Texas and Florida, and with some sort of efiling occurring in all fifty states, it is now falling on the judiciary to figure out how to leverage the electronic case file both in and out of the courtroom. Not only has it resulted in an enormous cost savings for the clerk and court operations, but judges and staff can work smarter and more efficiently, as long as the tools can stand up to the “electronic” tasks.

Full-text searching of documents is one such tool judges can use to work more efficiently with the electronic case file. This can be accomplished in a couple of ways.

1. Require the filer to submit the document with full-text search already enabled.
For example, the Texas judiciary is requiring efiled documents to be submitted as “text-searchable” pdfs (PDF/A) so that the data in the documents is more accessible.  Typically, it results in that one document being singularly searchable but does not necessarily enable full-text searching across more than one document at a time within the eFiling application or the CMS.

2. Place the burden on the receiving system to automatically transform the document into a full-text searchable document (see note below), and build indexes to allow searching across all the documents in a case; eliminating the burden on the filer who may or may not have the knowledge or tools to convert their submission to PDF/A.

Both approaches enable the judicial user to use full-text searching of a single document or all documents in the case file, with sub-second results. This is incredibly valuable when considering the volume of documents and pages that make up a judge’s caseload.

As one judge describes, “I use the OCR and “term search” capabilities every day in virtually every case, criminal or civil.  Whether I am on the bench in the middle of a hearing or at my desk preparing for a case, this amazing technology allows me to instantly find important information within the case documents such as law enforcement narrative reports, legal terms, and cases cited used in a memorandum or testimony in transcripts to name a few examples. The “full text” search across an entire case lets me retrieve multiple documents that relate to a common text.”

Judges can more effectively render decisions using “Google-style” searches because they can leverage every word in every document without needing to pour over every page in the file to find a piece of information in one or multiple filings. That data is at their fingertips as soon as they start typing, literally.

“Just yesterday during a pretrial hearing in a very serious criminal matter, the lawyers for each side were disagreeing over what I had ordered in a previous hearing.  I immediately clicked on the
Transcript tab, opened the 50 page transcript from the earlier date, term-searched the topic of dispute and read my exact words to them. The lawyers did not have time to even think about shuffling through their files to find the paper transcript because I resolved the issue in seconds.”


Note: Mentis Technology provides patented search technology that allows scanned images to be transformed from snapshots of the documents to libraries of accessible data.
aiSMARTBENCH is developed by Mentis Technology Solutions.

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