Wednesday, October 01, 2008

PA Courts Website Redesigned

On September 22, 2008, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts issued a Press Release entitled "Pennsylvania Courts Launch Redesigned Web Site" announcing total redesign of the web site maintained for the Pennsylvania court system, including a new web address.

The Pennsylvania court system today launched a completely redesigned Web site aimed at helping the legal profession, the media, law enforcement and, most of all, the public to easily access information from and about the courts.

The new site, coming 13 years after the court system's prototype Web site first went online, is organized to present a wide variety of court data and information to Internet users in a direct and clear manner.

Pages are designed with a uniform appearance. Ease of navigation, and a minimum of clutter, is the goal. * * *
The prior version of the court system's website was introduced in 1995 as the second such state court website in the country, and it was upgraded incrementally. See: Press Release, "Local Court Rules Accessible to Internet Users Through Pennsylvania's Judiciary Web Site" (06/01/99). The complete redesign, recently unveiled, began two years ago.

The Press Release noted that, "with the new site, the
Web address of Pennsylvania's Unified Judicial System also has changed to become more user-friendly."

This is the
AOPC's summary of the changes in the court system's website:
  • One segment of the new Web site is labeled "For the Public." Another is "For the Media." A third is "For the Legal Profession." Each of these, and other segments, are customized with features aimed to meet the needs and interests of people in those groups.
  • A major feature of the new site is a refined search capability that enables users to do more precise site searches than in the past.
  • Within the category of appellate court opinions, users also will have a highly useful research device: they will be able to do "content searches" using specific search terms. That capability was not previously available on the old site.
  • The Web site's home page provides users with direct access to court opinions for the Supreme, Superior and Commonwealth courts as well as direct access to Web docket sheets for appellate courts, criminal courts and magisterial district courts. These are among the most widely sought items of information on the Web site.
  • From its home page, the Web site also provides access to separate pages for the Supreme Court, Superior Court, Commonwealth Court, the Common Pleas courts, the minor courts, the Supreme Court committees and the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC).
  • The home page also provides direct access to a page for commonly used court forms, a page where court reports are assembled in a central location, an employment page and a site map. [Italics added.]
The Press Release also described the "segments" of the website intended for different users:
  • The "For the Public" segment of the site provides a video and a text description of how the Pennsylvania court system is organized, a history of the court system and an explanation of judicial qualifications, election and tenure. The segment also provides lists of all magisterial district judges, Common Pleas Court judges and appellate court judges in the state; access to Web docket sheets; information on lawyer and judicial ethics; frequently used forms and more.
  • The "For the Media" segment provides news releases, annual reports, statistical reports, lists of judges, bench books, medical malpractice data and more.
  • The "For the Legal Profession" segment provides court opinions, Web docket sheets, local rules of court, court calendars, information on court interpreters, information on continuing legal education and more. [Italics added.]
In a "Welcome" message on the redesigned website, the Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, Ronald D. Castille, states: "Our goal is to make as much information as possible quickly and easily available. We hope you find the site useful, informative and accessible."

With the new site, the Web address of Pennsylvania's Unified Judicial System also has changed to a new, short URL: Any online links made to the AOPC's prior website now need to be refreshed.

The Press Release concluded with a peek into the future for this website:

A second phase of the Web redesign, in which additional features to the site are being planned, is currently in progress.

One of those features will be a "For the Judiciary" page for use by judges and court personnel. * * *
Comments or questions about the redesigned website can be addressed to AOPC, as site master, for the Pennsylvania court system.