Tuesday, Aug. 16, was a big day in the main offices in Centennial for the 18th Judicial District. District Attorney George H. Brauchler volunteered his district to be the first in the state to go live with a new system to streamline the process of what lawyers call “discovery” -- providing reports, statements, photographs, recordings and other data to criminal defense attorneys.
“This new system establishes Colorado as the national front-runners in bringing discovery into the digital age, making the process more efficient for everyone involved,” Brauchler said. “When I took office, I pledged to make this office the best possible for our community. This is yet another step along that path. No other office in the state or country, let alone one with 28 separate law enforcement agencies, has taken on this challenge. I am proud of our team and the various agencies for their commitment to making this significant endeavor a success.”
Discovery starts when a police officer or a detective investigates an alleged crime. What the officer uncovers can be part of discovery.
That information is passed to the prosecutors, who decide whether and how to charge a case.
Then, by law, it must be shared with attorneys for the defendant.
This time-honored process is vital to our system of justice, but it also is very labor-intensive and time consuming. It frequently involved a lot of typing, scanning and filing.
Now, with eDiscovery, a first-in-the nation system created for Colorado by the Colorado District Attorney Council with help from Xerox, officers from the 28 agencies that work with 18th Judicial will input what they found. That “discovery” will move digitally to the district attorney’s office, attached to the file with the case information.
Julie Rost has overseen Arapahoe County court intake since May and is project coordinator for the district attorney’s office. “I had to start learning all the processes pretty quickly,” she said.
She said she hopes the new system will free up valuable time for the Central Services staff, who currently provide discovery materials to defense attorneys. Now, all of the material will be available in an accessible, digital format.
There is also the hope that staff in intake positions will be able to take on more, as they no longer will be scanning the materials received from law enforcement agencies, from the major police department in Aurora to the small marshal’s office in Hugo.
“We are hoping this will assist intake staff with no longer scanning documents from law enforcement agencies,” Rost said
When the system went live Tuesday, the main conference room was full of activity. Jon Saultz, the head of IT, was there, along with members of his staff. Rost was in place, and so was Lois Buckman, director of operations. A projection screen was ready to walk folks through the new process, and computer stations were set up so usually farflung employees could gather with their colleagues and work together as eDiscovery rolled out.
Clerical lead Jan Lutzka from the juvenile division was there early. “I’m ready … it’s been a long time in coming,” she said. Lutzka has been with the office more than 40 years, and procedures have evolved since she first started. “I have seen a lot of changes,” she added.
Deputy District Attorney Chris Wilcox was lending a hand Tuesday. “I’m troubleshooting and ready to help,” he said.
The Colorado District Attorneys Council (CDAC) loaned chief information officer Craig Evans, who has been involved in eDiscovery from the beginning.
After a governor’s task force identified the need for a streamlined digital discovery system, the CDAC stepped in to guide development of one. The system had to be built, because one with the mandated capabilities did not exist.
“This will be more efficient for everybody,” Evans said.
He said the 18th was a good district to go first, because its reporting agencies are so diverse. As a test case, it offered a bit of everything in terms of size and resources.
Next up for Evans, the 5th Judicial District (Clear Creek, Eagle, Lake and Summit counties) and then the 17th Judicial District (Adams and Broomfield counties) go live with eDiscovery. He’ll be there to lend a hand.
Then it’s the 4th Judicial District in El Paso County, “and then another district, until every one in the state is on board,” Evans said with a smile.
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