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Show-Me State first to integrate with Global Justice XML Data Model

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Although Missouri's initiative to integrate its court systems is still underway, the show-me state is probably ahead of the national curve based on the sheer scale of its XML data exchange project, says Jim Roggero, CIO in the Office of State Courts Administrator.

The Global Justice XML Data Model, selected last year by the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security as the standard for the National Information Exchange Model, serves as the data dictionary that provides the semantics bridge needed for accurate information exchange.

"It does work like a universal translator within the justice community, so that it allows us to speak the same language," Roggero says. The common data model is sponsored by the United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. Much of the dev work, under the guidance of the Global XML Structure Task Force, is done at the Georgia Tech Research Institute.

The Missouri Court Automation Initiative, which serves the state's 45 Judicial Circuits courts, three Appellate courts and the Supreme Court, uses the off-the-shelf ACS Justice Information System as the standard database. Starting in 1997, legacy data from each of the courts, which used home-grown apps or off-the shelf products such as Microsoft Access, SQL, DB and Clarion, had to be analyzed and converted to data fields understood by JIS, an Oracle-centric app. With estimates of 500 data fields per court, that meant conversion of about 25,000 data fields. At that time, developers extracted raw data files from the disparate systems, and moved them into the JIS database using Oracle Stored Procedures. It took a team of developers roughly 18-24 months to accomplish the data conversion for each proprietary court automation system.

In 2002, 5 years into the data conversion project, XML began to emerge as the defacto open standard for data exchange. The Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative released GJXDM in February 2004. Roggero got a bird's eye view at some of the relevant standards initiatives as chair of several DOJ-OJP committees. Missouri's OSCA opted to implement GJXDM for its statewide court automation project. The scale of the integration project and lack of developers with GJXDM exposure required the state to issue a request for proposals; Asynchrony Solutions of Saint Louis was selected as the systems integrator.

Asynchrony was tasked with integrating the legacy data from a variety of disparate apps, by transforming it into the GJXDM model, and putting that information into the central JIS database. "We are able to reuse much of the code so that we don't have to rewrite the code for every system that we convert," explains Patrick Brooks, OSCA's manager of applications development and administration.

"Basically what the GJXDM is, is nothing more than a data dictionary," he says. "The story is the data exchange. Once you have written that story with your dictionary, it is up to you to take your story and put it where it needs to go."

The dev team used Agile programming to develop a GJXDM-based schema. In data fields lacking an appropriate GJXDM tag, the team created tags and submitted them to the standards body to extend the GJXDM standard. The resulting XML document is converted to Java objects so that business rules can be applied when necessary before the legacy data is moved to the JIS database.

The team expects to finish the GJXDM data conversion for all 49 courts in 2007. This month, OSCA is piloting the use of its GJXDM dictionary for transferring case information from prosecuting attorneys' offices to the courts. Three counties are participating in the pilot. The next phase of the case management project will involve adding the state's municipal courts. A pilot project will likely be rolled out in the Kansas City area in the next 18 months, says Roggero.

The state's justice information infrastructure, connected via a fiberoptic network, also includes a jury management system, and CaseNet, which allows the public to view public court information via the Internet.

"All this capability that has been put out there electronically for people to talk to each other has reduced the paper flow, postage and other things by 90 percent," Roggero says. "The other part is the ability to flow information, not only information relative to interaction of people, but of cases."

About the Author

Kathleen Richards (krichards@1105media.com) is the editor of RedDevNews.com and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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