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Deploying an Ecosystem to Serve the Public: A Strategy for California’s Trial Courts

Profile picture for user Mike Madison
Mike Madison Senior Strategist
October 15, 2021

Overview

We’ve been working over the last year to help the Judicial Council of California move the infrastructure and design of various California court sites. This ongoing effort is grounded by several desired outcomes:

  • Secure and shared infrastructure
  • Sustainability and ease of maintenance for a large ecosystem
  • Flexible and expandable component architecture
  • Branding and design alignment

In a previous post, we noted that the California court system is the largest unified court system in the nation, and includes the State Supreme Court, six state appellate court districts, 58 county superior courts, and several administrative, policy-making, research and other supporting legal entities. Our most prominent effort at the moment is to begin moving at least two dozen entities, primarily county superior courts, onto an updated Drupal platform with shared design components, content migration and consulting, ongoing technical support and shared hosting.

The Challenge and The Approach

Even in a unified state court system, these dozens of county court sites have a variety of distinct content and features. Some courts were on an existing shared infrastructure, others were not. Some used Drupal, others didn't. Even elements like paying parking tickets or going to small claims court can be somewhat bespoke experiences from court to court, both in content structure and 3rd party integrations.

JCC Tehama Superior Court Before and After
Tehama County Court: Before and After

Because these individual county courts retain a great deal of autonomy over their websites, technology, content and vendors, encouraging court sites to the new shared infrastructure required selling the benefits of this shared approach, being open to discussion with the courts about individual implementations, acknowledging some modest constraints, and committing to long-term expansion and modification of the initial templates and feature set.

Our base technical approach includes:

  • Drupal 8
  • Pattern Lab
  • Pantheon Hosting
  • Flexible Component Design
  • Bi-weekly Code Deployments

Project Management is Essential

Deploying what will eventually be dozens of court sites in a year requires *alot* of coordination between content editors, developers and clients. We worked closely with the JCC’s web services team as an augmentation of their in-house staffing and expertise; that team was the liaison with the individual courts. After we had settled on the management approach, we began rolling out sites this spring, managing to move over 20 courts (so far) from their old sites to the new shared infrastructure. Before the rollout, our initial planning work included:

  • A tiered analysis of individual court website complexity (features, content, staff resources)
  • Structured outreach at all stages of the project (initial briefing, schedule alignment, content migration, training and launch)
  • Review and recommendations of any special court requests (integrations, features)

What’s Next

More courts are joining the effort, spurred on by the success of the initial rollout. Within the next 3 months we anticipate at least half of California’s county courts joining onto the new platform, with others likely to join in 2022.

Stay tuned for additional posts on the partnership with the Judicial Council of California, including more specifics about the implementations of key sites as well as insights into managing an enterprise rollout and ongoing maintenance plan.

Interested in learning more about our approach to your enterprise project? Please get in touch!

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