Close this search box.


Revolutionizing Court Management in Florida

Scaling Justice   •   An equivant podcast

When you improve the docketing process, it helps all stakeholders.

In this episode, Jill Lennon and Tami Ortiz from the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comptroller of Collier County share how they’ve revolutionized court management in Florida. They use ShowCase, equivant’s premier case management system (CMS) specifically configured for Florida laws and procedures. Hear their background in court management, how they use ShowCase along with their own office’s automation, how much quicker their process is now, how to use a CMS to match your vision, and their advice for courts looking to improve efficiency.

 Watch now:

Tune in:

Related Links

For more info, read the related case study: Maximizing Court Efficiency with Smart Docketing.

Scaling Justice Podcast Transcript

Revolutionizing Court Management in Florida

Brendan Hughes: Hello, and welcome to Scaling Justice, a video podcast by equivant that operates at the forefront of the justice space. I’m Brendan Hughes, Director of Marketing at equivant. All of us here at equivant are dedicated to delivering innovative solutions to simplify justice, and to help build more efficient and effective justice agencies nationwide.

Today, I have the pleasure of speaking with two people who revolutionized court management in Florida. I know that’s a strong statement, but truly. Collier County, Florida has been a leader in implementing innovative solutions to dramatically improve efficiency in their core processes for years. While our guests have created numerous improvements to the operation and business of their court, we’re going to focus mostly on how they’ve dramatically improved docketing, and how that, in turn, has improved productivity, reporting, and the court experience for all stakeholders. equivant’s Showcase is the CMS used by Collier County. Our guests have leveraged its capabilities and combined it with their own intuition, hard work, and innovation to create an automated smart docketing system that is the envy of courts in Florida, and really, across the country.

So, let’s get to know them, and then they can provide all the fun details. First, I’d like to welcome Collier County Director of Courts, Jill Lennon. Welcome, Jill, and can you provide a quick background?

Jill Lennon: Yes, thank you for inviting me. I started at the clerk’s office in Collier County in 1987 in the felony division. From there, in about four years I became a supervisor and began my journey of learning every department within the courts, and that journey has now spanned 36 years. So, I’ve learned so much over all these years. I was in court before we even had computers or a computer system, so I’ve seen it all, from nothing to what we have today, which is the best.

Brendan Hughes: Wow. That’s a full background, many years of experience, and really excited to have you on the podcast and hear more about what you guys have done. And also joining us is the Collier County Assistant Director of Courts, Tami Ortiz. Welcome, and can you provide a brief professional background?

Tami Ortiz: Hello, and thank you for having me. I sure can. When I started with the clerk’s office 24 plus years ago, I had no knowledge of court at all. I think I had one speeding ticket my entire life, so the courtroom and the justice system was totally new to me. I started off doing docket prep, which was actually checking case files to make sure that everything was in there that was needed, to now being the Assistant Director in Courts. It’s been a long road, one that I’m happy to have traveled, and to hopefully continue traveling.

Brendan Hughes: That’s right. That’s right. Great, great. Yeah. Well, again, great to have you guys, lots of great background, lots of great experience that you guys have and are bringing to this conversation, so thanks again for being here. And kind of going back to the start of some of this, Jill, you just mentioned that you were in the court system before they had computers, but as things started to evolve and there was more technology, there also were challenges that your court has faced in the past, and probably continues to face. And could you start to tell us a little bit about those challenges? I’m sure they’d be familiar to our audience. I’m sure many of the challenges that your court has faced are challenges that other courts across the country have faced. But before we get to those solutions, what were the pain points? What are the challenges that your court has faced?

Jill Lennon: The biggest challenge was budget, and I think that’s what you’ll hear from everybody. Our budget kept decreasing. We didn’t have a way to keep up. We would fall behind. We would have weeks’ worth of tickets to enter. We would be behind on state reporting. We just did not have enough resources to keep going because of the budget cuts. And I know that our staff decreased by 50 employees during a 10-year span.

Brendan Hughes: Wow.

Jill Lennon: So, how do I keep meeting performance measures set by the state and having things prepared for the courtroom, having dockets out there for the attorneys and the public? How do I keep up with that when I have 50 less people to be doing the work? And so, that was what we were trying to solve. What product is out there that will help me still accomplish what we need to accomplish in a timely manner?

Brendan Hughes: Yeah. That’s a dramatic situation. I’m sure the budget, the staffing, they lead to other challenges and issues that probably affected you guys daily, and might seem overwhelming. So, where do you start when you find yourself in this situation, where budgets keep getting slashed and you’re running into staffing issues? Where do you start?

Jill Lennon: I knew that we needed automation. I knew that we needed the computer to do some of the thought processes for us. Tami, explain what we would do with dockets and how we would do those at the time.

Tami Ortiz: We would make at least 26 copies of dockets and pass them out to all these different agencies a week in advance. Trust me, within that week’s time, we would get so many add-ons, drop-offs. It was crazy. But we would then have to make more copies, send them out. So, not only were we having to notify all these agencies of what was coming up, we would then have to notify them of what was just done in court, be in our scratch dockets, again, another 26 dockets getting passed out, and then we would have to pass out a final docket. And again, 26 copies being passed out through all these different places, and we’re getting phone calls in between asking what’s going on with this case. The jail, it would take a full day just with the phone calls alone, getting these answers to questions. So, just being able to email and simplify something as easy as that has just made a world of difference.

Brendan Hughes: Yeah. That’s an amazing amount of printing and revisions and all of that stuff. I can imagine the amount of time and energy that you guys were faced with and working on. Are there some other maybe roadblocks, some other examples that you guys identified? That was a great example, Tami, but are there some other things that you guys noticed that you were like, there’s got to be a better way?

Jill Lennon: Yes. One of the key things is state reporting. So, we have to report certain fields. Every clerk’s office has to, to the driver’s license bureau, to the state. So, I wanted to figure out a way to simplify this, so my vision was smart docketing. In the past, let’s say someone came and they wanted to elect school for their traffic ticket. In the past, we would have to go in, change the status, go in and change the fees, go in and set the disposition, which would be a number, by the way, so you’d have to know the number for school. Then, we would have to do the receipt, and then we would have to deal with the D6 suspension issues or clearing that.

And so, my vision was, I want to go one place. I want the clerk to look at it and say, this person wants to elect school. I want the system to know, are they eligible? Can they do that? If they can, I want it go behind the scenes and do all of this. Therefore, the clerk is clicking one button and everything happens. Same thing getting a notice of appearance from an attorney. We’d have to then go into parties, add the attorney to it. We’d then have to go in to the scheduling to put in a written plea of not guilty. We would then have to sometimes reschedule. Now, the system is doing. And so, those types of things. I said, I want the computer to do the thinking.

Sometimes it pops up a question for the clerk to answer, to help it make decisions, but in the past, the clerk would have to look at things. First of all, they’d have to know the docket codes. We now do it in English. They look for the word. Let’s say you were going to enter a notice of no cross to close the case. You had to know that that code was an O, which doesn’t even make sense. No cross is an O. Now, they don’t have to do that. They simply pick no cross from the list, pick which charges it applies to, and it does everything for them and closes the case. So, it’s unbelievable, the speed in which things happen now.

Brendan Hughes: Yeah. I remember you mentioning this to me in the past, those reporting codes, and how kind of archaic it was that you had to almost look up a code that had no relation to what you were trying to accomplish. It sounded very cumbersome.

Jill Lennon: Yes, it definitely was. I mean, they would memorize some of them, but there are so many. Especially, Tami has a list here of the sentence provisions that you would have to enter, and there are just so many. It was very difficult. Again, they would memorize the standard ones, but as soon as something was outside of that, they had to look up on these charts, and there were just lists and lists of different codes.

Brendan Hughes: Yeah. I can imagine how long that would take, to process one item or one report, and having people take the time to do that, and then also accounting for mistakes. You can only memorize so many, and I’m sure there are some times that you make a mistake or click the wrong button or type in the wrong button, or write in the wrong code.

Jill Lennon: Definitely. The mistakes have decreased substantially, because before, a person might do, if someone elected school, they might forget to go into one of the areas and make the change. Maybe they got interrupted by a phone call, or someone came up to ask them something, and they didn’t do something. That doesn’t happen anymore, because it’s the computer doing it for them, so the amount of mistakes is really decreased.

Brendan Hughes: Great. Yeah, so I know that you mentioned that you started when there was no computers, and then there were computers, and for many years, you’ve been using a case management system, equivant’s Showcase system, and the CMS, the Showcase system, has capabilities built in and some intelligent workflow, and it can be configured to the way your court works. Not all courts, I know, not everybody works exactly the same, and there’s some nuances and variations.

So, knowing that, that you have this system that can be intelligent, but you have your own, as you were describing, kind of your own nuances of the way you guys work in Collier County, how do you go about leveraging the possibilities and capabilities of the CMS to match what your vision is? I heard you talk about your vision. You would see something and say, I want it to do this. Well, how do you go about doing that?

Jill Lennon: That’s one of the great things about Showcase, is that many of these things, we can do ourselves. We have programmers, and they set up all of our different workflows that we wanted. For example, we want this document to be emailed automatically to the jail warrants department, because it’s a warrant, or we want this to be emailed to the Department of Juvenile Justice automatically. Or what are some other ones, Tami, that you attach to the docket codes that it automatically does? Maybe closes out the case. Okay, if we docket a final judgment, we have workflow attached that says close out this case using this code. So, Tami can go in and attach anything to any docket code that she wants to add. Now, if we want some new functionality, then the programmers work with us. But a great thing with the Showcase counties is we can also share that with them. So, once we have a group of workflows done, we can share that with Palm Beach County, and if they want to put it in, they can, or they can go through equivant and get that workflow done also.

Brendan Hughes: You know, it seems to me that you’ve been doing this for years and that this is not something that happened overnight, that you probably had some trial and error as you thought of ways to make the process smoother and how to leverage the technology. So, along the way, what lessons have you learned making this happen? And what do you kind of continue to learn today? I’m sure each day’s kind of a new day for you guys.

Jill Lennon: That definitely has happened. In the beginning, when this was all brand-new and we worked with equivant programmers, it was all brand-new to us. And the way it was set up in the beginning, we had to still have a lot of docket codes out there. We’ve now moved on to what we call, instead of smart docketing, we’ve now moved on to super smart docketing. And we have figured out now, after 12, 13 years, whatever, how we can combine it even more.

So, we used to have quite a few notice of appearances out there. One for civil, one for traffic, one for criminal, because different things happened. We are now combining all of those, so it will be even easier for the clerk. There will be one notice of appearance, and then the computer knows if it’s civil, do this, if it’s criminal, do this, if it’s traffic, do this. So, we’re making the computer even smarter than it was. We didn’t even think of that back when we first started, because of course we were doing one department at a time. And, so now, we know we can take it even further.

Brendan Hughes: That’s smart.

Tami Ortiz: Right. I think you start with your simplest needs. I mean, this is trial and error. Anything that you do, you can take away. It’s playing with the system until you get it to what you need it to do.

Brendan Hughes: That’s great. Yeah, and you’ve talked a little bit about the ways that you’ve made the system smarter, the docketing smarter, even super smart now, and I’m sure that’s resulted in a lot of increased productivity, as we talked about earlier, some fewer mistakes. Reporting I know is huge, making sure the reports are accurate and on time. I know you guys have deadlines that you have to meet on reporting for the state. What are some results that have really stood out to you since you’ve started this approach of smart and super smart docketing?

Jill Lennon: Well, our state reporting, we have very few errors ever. Showcase catches errors that clerks would make ahead of time, and we also have error reports that we can run so that we can have clean data that goes for state reporting. What else, Tami?

Tami Ortiz: Part of the smart docketing functions is knowing that if you put in a date incorrectly, it’s going to give you an error message. If you try to put in a blood alcohol content that’s not correct, it’s going to give you an error message saying it’s too high or too low for this type of charge. It’s really knocked our errors.

Jill Lennon: Right. And then the speed with which we accomplish things. We always meet performance measures, and the state sets a performance measure at 80% have to be done in this amount of time. Ours is always 99 to 100% in that amount of time. I mean, it’s unbelievable.

Brendan Hughes: Wow.

Jill Lennon: We don’t ever miss a performance measure that’s set by the state. We are never late on our reports. Everything is done when you walk out of the courtroom. Everything is done. Every case is disposed of or continued, and the paperwork is done. So, that just gives us a lot more resources, people who were finished already. We don’t have to spend the next six hours completing our docket, and they can jump in and do some of the other work. So, the amount of time spent on each function is reduced dramatically.

Brendan Hughes: Wow. That’s a long way from the 26 different reports, dockets, that you were printing out every day.

Jill Lennon: Yes, it is.

Brendan Hughes: I think that it leads to what you had mentioned a little bit earlier, too, and you just kind of alluded to, is the staffing, where over the years, you’ve had to reduce staff because of budget and other maybe issues, that you don’t have as much staff. I think you mentioned maybe 50 people less than at a certain time. How does this help with, one, probably accomplishing as much as you can with the staff that you have, and then maybe training new staff?

Jill Lennon: Mm-hmm. That is really something that Showcase has helped us do, and that’s cross-training of our staff. In this day and age with this few of people, especially we found once COVID hit, that people are going to be out. Yet, we have cross-trained our employees and Showcase is so much easier to learn because if there’s a question that needs to be answered, it asks you that question. Therefore, we were able to stay open throughout COVID and be able to keep going, because we could just grab a clerk from a different area.

Recently, there was a law change that caused thousands of cases to be filed in each county, and it was a huge burden, especially for the big counties. Well, probably for every county. We had ours done and still met the performance measures. Other clerk’s offices, a month or two later, were still working on that. But you see, I was able to take my entire staff and say, everybody stop, let’s get these cases all entered, and then go on with your work. So, we did not have a backlog at all, and I think that is definitely unique to a Showcase county, being able to do that and being able to, in time, cross-train everyone. So, every person that starts here at the clerk’s office begins by learning how to enter cases. That way, if I ever have any issues, they can jump in and do that.

Brendan Hughes: Some really amazing results. And I’m sure people that are listening,. may be from other courts and other counties and other justice agencies, are hearing this and they want to do something similar, right? They’re facing a lot of the same challenges. They’re probably in a similar situation that you guys were. What, maybe each of you maybe could speak a little bit to, what advice would you give to somebody who was kind of at their wit’s end and really wants to improve their efficiency? What should they do?

Jill Lennon: My answer to that question was buy Showcase. I really have looked at all the systems. I’ve been here for so many years. I feel like it’s the best system. It was written for clerks. Clerks were directly involved in writing this system. There is so much more. I hope we can have some future podcasts. The forms that automatically are produced, you walk out of the courtroom, we do full in-court processing. Now, we have something spectacular that Tami has begun working on. I’ll let her tell about the auto e-filing. And there are just so many things that, if you want to meet performance measures and be able to move forward and take away the stress from your employees, you need a system like Showcase.

Tami Ortiz: My answer, of course, is rip the band-aid and buy Showcase. And one of the things that Jill mentioned was a new smart docketing feature that we’ve been implementing, and it’s somewhat of a bypassing the clerk. So, if something’s e-filed, it’s going automatically into the case. So, if there’s no workflow associated with it, it’s going straight in. We’re saving sometimes up to 500 e-filings a day.

Brendan Hughes: Wow.

Tami Ortiz: I mean, that would be a full clerk’s job right there, and this is just one simple little feature that we found that is saving us so much time. That’s 40 hours a week it’s saving.

Jill Lennon: I could also say, they can come visit at any time and we’d be happy to show them the efficiencies that there are, because we’re always happy to talk to other clerk’s offices and get all of our minds together and say, what other ideas are there? We’re always up for automation. What else can we do to make it even better? So, we are always happy to meet with other clerk’s offices and see how we can improve the system.

Brendan Hughes: Yeah, that’s great. And I do think, also, hearing you guys talk about this and your many years of experience, I think one other takeaway is I think you guys have a keen eye on identifying those roadblocks and thinking of ways to leverage these systems. So, I think that’s one other big takeaway I have when I listen to you guys speak about this, is that the roadblocks don’t intimidate you. It seems like you guys turn them into oh, that’s an opportunity to make something better. And those, when you identify, well, why is that taking so long, or why are we slow in that feature? Is there a way to make that better? I think that mindset has really served you both well.

Jill Lennon: Thank you.

Tami Ortiz: Thank you.

Jill Lennon: That’s exactly what we do. We sit in meetings and we say, okay, what mistakes were made? What problems are there? What errors happened? Why are they happening? How can we stop, have the computer do something, to stop that error from happening? We definitely have a lot of meetings where we analyze what’s going on and where are the backlogs, and that’s how we’ve made it so far, is having that attitude. We are never afraid of automation, that’s for sure.

Brendan Hughes: Yeah. No, it sounds like it, and then you were able then to leverage those powerful Showcase system that has those intelligent workflows that you guys can leverage and make work for you. Well, Jill and Tami, this was great. I really appreciate your time in speaking to me today. And as you mentioned, I’m sure we can have you back in the future. There’s other items, other features, that you guys are doing that we can speak more about. But this was great stuff, and I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today.

Jill Lennon: Yeah, we’re happy to.

Tami Ortiz: Thank you.

Brendan Hughes: Great. And thanks to everyone listening on this edition of Scaling Justice, brought to you by equivant. Contact us at to weigh in on this episode, or let us know what topics you’d like to hear more about. Until next time, I’m Brendan Hughes and this has been Scaling Justice.