Better Management Needed in Automating the Federal Judiciary

GGD-81-19: Published: Apr 2, 1981. Publicly Released: Apr 2, 1981.

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The Federal Judicial Center is developing and implementing computer-based systems, collectively known as Courtran, to automate various activities of Federal courts. GAO reviewed some of the Center's systems development and transfer practices, the need for increased Center-Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts coordination, and the plans to automate the Federal judiciary.

The Federal Judicial Center has not used good software design, development, and implementation practices and has not performed all the steps essential to properly develop and implement software systems. The Center has not always fully identified and analyzed users' needs, alternatives, benefits, and costs before undertaking software development work. Conversion to automated systems has not been as smooth as it should have been because conversion plans, procedures, and necessary operations and maintenance manuals have not been prepared. Although systems have been tested and operated in parallel at great length, progress toward moving systems out of the developmental stage and into full operation remains negligible. The Center has taken some steps to: (1) determine which Courtran systems are cost beneficial; (2) identify which courts should use the various systems; (3) determine the most effective hardware and communication configuration for the systems; (4) require courts to prepare conversion plans and procedures before implementing new systems; and (5) require clerks of the court to formally approve all requests to modify automated systems. Although Congress expected the Center and the Administrative Office to work together to improve and support Federal court operations, little coordination has occurred. As a result, The Federal judiciary's automatic data processing needs are supported by two separate organizations, and neither the Center nor the Administrative Office is prepared for the transfer of operational and maintenance responsibilities for Courtran systems.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Directors of the Federal Judicial Center and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts should work together to develop and implement a detailed plan to ensure the orderly transfer of automated court systems to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts as envisioned by Congress.

    Agency Affected: Federal Judicial Center

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Directors of the Federal Judicial Center and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts should work together to develop and implement a detailed plan to ensure the orderly transfer of automated court systems to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts as envisioned by Congress.

    Agency Affected: Administrative Office of the United States Courts

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Directors of the Federal Judicial Center and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts should work together to establish an automatic data processing cost accounting system to aid in decisionmaking and in preparing internal and external reports.

    Agency Affected: Federal Judicial Center

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Directors of the Federal Judicial Center and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts should work together to establish an automatic data processing cost accounting system to aid in decisionmaking and in preparing internal and external reports.

    Agency Affected: Administrative Office of the United States Courts

  5. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Directors of the Federal Judicial Center and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts should work together to determine whether two fully equipped computer organizations are needed to design, develop, and implement automated systems to support the Federal judiciary.

    Agency Affected: Federal Judicial Center

  6. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Directors of the Federal Judicial Center and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts should work together to determine whether two fully equipped computer organizations are needed to design, develop, and implement automated systems to support the Federal judiciary.

    Agency Affected: Administrative Office of the United States Courts

  7. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Directors of the Federal Judicial Center and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts should work together to establish a coordinated planning process and prepare a joint long-range plan which is updated at least annually. The plan should show the judiciary's needs, proposed projects, costs and benefits, priorities, workloads, and equipment and personnel required to support the workload.

    Agency Affected: Federal Judicial Center

  8. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Directors of the Federal Judicial Center and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts should work together to establish a coordinated planning process and prepare a joint long-range plan which is updated at least annually. The plan should show the judiciary's needs, proposed projects, costs and benefits, priorities, workloads, and equipment and personnel required to support the workload.

    Agency Affected: Administrative Office of the United States Courts

  9. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Federal Judicial Center and the Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts should jointly inform Congress of the Joint Development Planning Committee's operations and of the progress made toward implementing a long-range planning process, a cost accounting system, and coordinated computer operations.

    Agency Affected: Federal Judicial Center

  10. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Federal Judicial Center and the Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts should jointly inform Congress of the Joint Development Planning Committee's operations and of the progress made toward implementing a long-range planning process, a cost accounting system, and coordinated computer operations.

    Agency Affected: Administrative Office of the United States Courts

  11. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Federal Judicial Center in concert with the Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts should establish written processes for the orderly development and implementation of computerized information systems in support of the U.S. Courts.

    Agency Affected: Federal Judicial Center

  12. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Federal Judicial Center in concert with the Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts should establish written processes for the orderly development and implementation of computerized information systems in support of the U.S. Courts.

    Agency Affected: Administrative Office of the United States Courts

 

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