Pulaski County Considering Switch to Odyssey Court Software

Pulaski County officials are considering a switch in the county’s court software. The county commissioners Monday were presented with a choice between CSI, the case management system the county currently uses and employees are happy with, and Odyssey, which is used by most of the rest of the state.

Prosecutor Dan Murphy told the commissioners that the way things are going, it’s only a matter of time Pulaski County will find itself switching to Odyssey. “No matter which way you go, the question’s going to be, ‘What’s in the best interest of the county, and how much do you want to put in time, effort, energy, and tears now, or do you want to do it in five years, if Odyssey keeps going?'” he said. Additionally, the county pays $25,000 a year for CSI, while it could use Odyssey for free.

However, switching to Odyssey would create quite a few challenges. For one thing, the system is cloud-based, meaning court documents would no longer be stored on Pulaski County’s servers but elsewhere on the Internet. In order to access files in a timely manner, the county’s Internet service need an upgrade, and new computer systems would need to be installed.

On top of that, County Clerk Christi Hoffa said other clerks who have made the switch have been unhappy with Odyssey’s tech support. “When we call CSI because we have a problem, we get an answer in maybe a couple hours, tops,” he explained. “They’re waiting up to two days for a help desk ticket to be answered. We don’t call help desk unless it’s a need, we need an answer. We can’t wait two days for an answer.” She added that the employee training process is lengthy and not very helpful, according to other clerks.

The switch would also likely delay the implementation of e-filing, which has to be in place by the end of next year. Hoffa said she’s been working with CSI to get e-filing up and running this July. If the county switches to Odyssey, that process would start over from the beginning.

Pulaski Circuit Judge Michael Shurn said Odyssey has a few more features, but he finds it to be less user-friendly than CSI. “One thing I don’t like, it is such an abbreviated docket that you can’t tell what happened,” he said, “where we can flesh out our docket and say, you know, ‘Mom’s got the kids. Dad pays support. Here’s how much support.’ It’s all drop-down boxes, just like, ‘Order entered.’ It doesn’t tell you anything, unless you attach the order to the entry, which you can do, and then read it, assuming you’ve got fast-enough Internet to pull up that order to read.”

He also questioned how useful the cloud-based system will prove to be for archival purposes. “You know, they say, ‘This system will never change. You will always be able to access this form of data forever.’ I don’t have that confidence,” Shurn said. “All the systems we’ve used in the past, unless you have it, you can’t access that data. I have no confidence that in 40 years, we’re going to be able to access our records today if they’re kept electronically, whatever the system is.”

Whichever system the county commissioners choose, the county will likely be stuck with it for at least a few years. Judge Shurn said that grant funding would likely be available for the computer upgrades for his offices, but he’s not sure if it would cover new equipment for the clerk’s office.

Making matters even more difficult is the fact that Pulaski County is currently without an in-house IT director. The commissioners said the job is being advertised, and they hope to have a new IT director in place in June.

For now, Judge Shurn agreed to gather more information about potential grant funding, and the county council will likely have a chance to weigh in on the switch next week. Shurn requested that the commissioners make a decision later this month.