Not long ago, Bell County’s district court dockets were fixed in time on a document that delineated that week’s planned hearings arranged by date and courtroom. However, in reality, court dockets are in constant motion as new hearings are set and others are rescheduled for later dates. Since making the switch last year to a searchable online court records system — Odyssey by Tyler Technologies, Inc. — the public has access to records that reflect the changes that always are occurring in court coordinators’ offices.
Members of the public and the media still have to request specific documents such as arrest affidavits and attorneys’ legal motions, but the public portal is searchable by name and county record number as well as by courtroom, legal officer and date.
“Transparency was absolutely a priority for us,” said Adam Ward, the head of Bell County’s Technology Services Department, in an emailed response to the Herald’s questions.
Bell County used its old system for more than 30 years but it could not keep pace with an increasing hunger for information, he said.
“Given the growing demands for data and security put on our Technology Services Department, it had become increasingly costly and time-consuming to meet the large numbers of requests made of the system,” Ward said. “A solution like Odyssey helps us to bridge the transparency gap, while meeting all of our security needs. The old system also was getting increasingly difficult to maintain, due to the technology platform and keeping up with innovations in court case management. Tyler’s solution was one of only a couple of software platforms in the market that could handle the case load and integration needed for Bell County.”
Bell County officially phased out its old system on June 1, 2021.
“The total implementation cost was just under $3.5 million and under budget,” Ward said. “Ongoing software support, which includes statutory requirement changes, general support, bug fixes and innovation enhancements, costs $254,763 annually.”
The initial costs to implement the system included the purchase of the software, hardware and support software as well as an implementation services team for two years and Data Conversion Services for converting 30 years of historical data.
Bell County is in the process of integrating Tyler’s Attorney Manager solution for use in both of the county’s prosecutors’ offices.
“The county also operates two additional products from Tyler, our Jail Management System (New World) and our Jury Management System (Courthouse Technologies),” Ward said. “Neither of these two products were purchased or implemented while Tyler owned them but were procured during Tyler’s acquisitions of two companies.”
Based in Plano, Tyler Technologies was founded in 1966 and now serves municipalities nationwide.