Audit Division
Audit Summary

Judicial Branch of Government
Uniform System for Judicial Records
Report LA96-8

Results in Brief

Nevada's court system has made little progress in developing an automation system that generates uniform judicial data, despite the AOC spending more than $3 million over the past 11 years. Because the AOC has not properly planned the development and implementation of the uniform system for judicial records, little uniformity exists, accurate and reliable information cannot be easily assembled, and there is no assurance that a uniform system will ever be achieved. Formal planning is essential to ensure information systems meet the needs of the Judicial Branch and other criminal justice agencies. Planning also provides the mechanism to achieve cooperation and coordination among criminal justice agencies. The uniform system for judicial records should allow the courts to be more effective and efficient in the performance of their duties.

Errors in the administration of justice may occur because Nevada's criminal history records are incomplete. It takes years to update most criminal convictions, and some convictions may never be reported. Although the criminal history records are maintained by the DMV, the usefulness of this information depends on timely and accurate disposition reporting by the Judicial Branch. The AOC can improve the reporting process by working with other criminal justice agencies to help coordinate the electronic transfer of data between the Judicial Branch, executive branch agencies, and local entities.

Principal Findings

1. In 1984, the AOC attempted to develop a uniform system for recording traffic violations but failed because of poor planning. As a result, about $1 million was wasted over a period of several years. (page 11)

2. Poor implementation has prevented some courts from receiving many of the benefits intended from their automation systems. The AOC has attempted to improve court efficiency by funding court automation systems; however, some courts duplicate their work by maintaining a complete set of manual financial records in addition to computer records. We identified 8 courts that have a complete set of manual and computer records. (page 11)

3. The criminal history reporting process is overburdened with paper because court information is transferred manually rather than electronically. According to consultants hired by DMV, the state's 2 largest contributors of disposition information had 1 to 2 year backlogs of disposition reports. In
addition, DMV's criminal history repository had a backlog of 25,000 dispositions to be entered. (page 12)

4. Without a statewide automation plan, the AOC is miss-ing significant opportunities for establishing uniform data collection and reporting for courts in the process of system development. According to our survey, 19 courts are planning new systems or intend to make major modifications to their existing systems. However, 11 of the courts indicated they were not aware of the AOC's program to develop a uniform system, and only 2 courts responded that the AOC was involved with planning their system. As a result, additional programming costs will be incurred by these courts after the AOC establishes uniform data collection for Nevada's courts. (page 12)

5. Nevada's criminal history records do not contain complete information for many criminals. DMV staff could only find 24% of the felony convictions we tested in the criminal history repository. These records are crucial for law enforcement investigations, prosecution, and sentencing. As a result, offenders may be charged with lesser offenses because of incomplete records and untimely transfer of prior conviction information by the courts to the DMV. (page 13)

6. Some courts are not properly reporting driving under the influence (DUI) convictions to the DMV. We examined 99 DUI convictions at 4 justice courts in fiscal year 1993. DMV staff were unable to find 27 of the DUI convictions on the offenders' driving records. Because DUI laws require more severe sentences for repeat offenders, judges may impose incorrect sentences if prior conviction information is not accurate. (page 15)

7. The AOC does not receive information necessary to monitor the operations of the Judicial Branch. Without timely information, the AOC has experienced difficulties in projecting revenues used to fund various programs within the Supreme Court and other criminal justice programs. During fiscal years 1993 and 1994, administrative assessment fees collected by justice and municipal courts fell short of AOC's projections by $1.2 million. AOC officials had difficulty explaining the reasons for this shortfall to the Legislature, because of inadequate information. (page 17)

8. The AOC, under the direction of the Supreme Court, needs to assume a leadership role in developing a uniform system for judicial records. Many courts indicated they were not aware that the program exists. Twenty-seven of 52 courts which responded to our survey said they were not aware of the AOC's program to develop a uniform system for judicial records. Furthermore, 32 of 42 courts reported that the AOC had not assisted their court in developing an automated system which provides uniform statewide reporting of statistical, financial, and conviction data. Unless the AOC takes an active role to ensure planning, cooperation, and compliance, a uniform system may never be developed. (page 20)