Court of Cassation Information System(CCIT)
Court of Cassation of the Republic of Turkey

The Problem

The number of incoming files at the Court of Cassation ("CoC") is 750.000 every year. Before the Court of Cassation Information System ("CCIT") these files would be transported in large bags by the postal service. The bags would be referred to the registry of the relevant chamber then the files were recorded in the registry book of the chamber. The Departments and public prosecution units had to keep 66 different proceeding books related to files reviewed at the CoC for registry, file examination and reporting, drafting writs etc. At times people forgot recording in the related books or changed entries intentionally or unintentionally.
Each file was subject to a preliminary examination to check whether it involves detention or risks imminent statute of limitations.
Sometimes the files delivered by the postal service awaited to be opened for several months due to overload of incoming materials. Therefore, it took days to sort out files to process when people submitted appeal waivers. Again, sometimes files got mixed up or lost for other reasons.
The archive rooms in the CoC premises hardly sufficed to house incoming files. Consequently, the storage space of governmental archives had to be used or admissions from the postal service had to be suspended sometimes. The conditions in the archive rooms in the basement were unhealthy and poor, resulting in fires, floods, etc and creating health problems among rapporteur judges and prosecutors
The annual file counting took at least three weeks. The CoC had to stop judicial activity during the counting.
Files which lacked the necessary documents such as criminal records or title deeds had to be returned to the local court to address these gaps. The existing documents in the files were not up to date. All these issues caused significant waste of time.
Decisions including supersedeas, injunctions or release orders had to be communicated to the courts via cablegram, fax messages or phone calls. In such circumstances, the other party to the case could take precautions, having hold of, e.g., suspension orders by other means.
The parties had to go to CoC to get information about the status of their cases. There were allegations that public officers at CoC provided information to the parties in return for certain benefits.
The chambers rendered an average of 400 judgments every week. Every judgment was prepared in 5 copies, which meant that every member had to spare 66 minutes for signature considering that a single signature took 2 seconds.
The CoC decides 650.000 judgments every year on average and only 800 judgments were published in the CoC journal each year. As there was hardly another way of accessing the case-law of the Court, word was that publishers or authors gained access by providing benefits to CoC officers. An unnecessary restriction of access to public documents produced using public resources hampered citizens' right to access information which specifically concerned themselves.
Search for judgments on any subject or collection of statistical data for year-end file counts required considerable effort and generated unreliable data.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The CCIT refers to electronic execution of all business processes at the CoC and integration with all judicial units and relevant public and private bodies. The system aims to prevent the traffic of physical files and waste of time and money. Another aim is to improve transparency of business processes, thereby enhancing public confidence in the judiciary and to raise quality by facilitating rapid access of personnel to information.
CCIT is based on a software contracted by CoC to a private company. All necessary measures have been taken at the software development phase in order to ensure full compatibility with the National Judiciary Informatics System (UYAP) implemented by the Ministry of Justice. CoC personnel are in charge of maintaining the system and improving it in keeping with emerging needs. The software is web-based and compatible with the electronic signature system.
By introducing electronic exchange of documents, CCIT has rendered physical file storage unnecessary and eliminated the risk of lost files. It now takes only seconds to examine whether an incoming file poses any priority. The registry information of incoming files are automatically drawn from the system, which prevents waste of effort, time and money and human errors.
The parties can submit petitions or add documents to their files electronically without having to go to the Court.
Counting of year-end pending files can be performed within minutes. Also, it is possible to access any statistical information on the status of files immediately.
The concerned parties are promptly informed about judgments concerning the file such as release orders or suspension orders.
The parties may follow up the phase of proceedings as they wish using the internet or via SMS.
All judgments dating back to 2006 are accessible to all judges and prosecutors and parties can access the decisions which concern themselves.
With the launch of CCIT in 2006, correspondence has become electronic, saving time and paper.
The documents which need to be included in the files such as criminal records or title deeds can be completed electronically, saving time. Consequently, the "Bureau for Completion of Missing Items" which used to serve this purpose alone is closed down.
The impact of CCIT is measured by various criteria such as reduced paper consumption, shortened time in postage process, elimination of time for completing missing documents and data on use of web-based services. For example, the departments e-signed 786468 writs and 12000 suspension orders in 2011. Going paperless has saved 75 million pages of paper and considerable amount of postage costs and time.
All parties concerned by the cases use CCIT. CoC members, rapporteur judges and prosecutors use VPN connection to work regardless of time and space. Lawyers use the same method to add information and documents in their files. Moreover, each member of the CoC can e-sign nearly 400 writs in 7 minutes. Document automation and application GUIs peculiar to administrative units facilitate effective execution of administrative transactions. This has improved the speed and efficiency of actions concerning leaves, medical care, personnel affairs etc.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
Turkey started working intensively in 2000s on putting the advancing technology at the judiciary's service. Parallel to the project activities of the Ministry of Justice in this regard, the management of the Court of Cassation decided to develop a dedicated software for the Court.
The whole CoC organization contributed to the efforts for the development of the system. In particular, the pre-development analysis phase took nearly two years. This phase consisted of a review of all business processes at the Court, face-to-face interviews and was concluded by the development of the specifications. After taking delivery of the software developed in accordance with the specifications, the CoC IT Directorate directly and promptly addressed emerging issues and has constantly improved the system. All CoC personnel have contributed to the improvement of the system. The Government has provided the necessary resources for the project and the Ministry of Justice has offered assistance at every stage. The Union of Bar Associations and the Association of Notaries have encouraged the implementation of the system. Civil society organizations have supported the Court for the initiative.
The legislation was amended to enable recruitment of qualified personnel and implementation of new technologies and the establishment of the IT Directorate was incorporated in the Law on the Court of Cassation. CoC has worked in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice, High Council of Judges and Prosecutors and the Constitutional Court in the implementation of the project. Besides, the issues which arose during software development were resolved through joint meetings with the coordination board comprising the representatives of the abovementioned institutions, in respect of the fact that the judicial activity is inseparable.
The case files from first instance courts are forwarded to CCIT through UYAP and all file records are transferred to CCIT electronically. In addition, the system allows XML-based data exchange with integrated units which are related to the judiciary. These units include first instance courts, Directorate General for Civil Registration and Citizenship Affairs, the Measurement, Selection and Placement Center, Directorate General for Land Registry, Social Security Institution, Directorate General for Criminal Records and Statistics, Union of Turkish Bar Associations, Turkish Association of Notaries, Public Procurement Agency and Turkish Statistical Institute. Information and documents needed when the appealed files are reviewed including civil registries and address, passport, vehicle registration and driving penalty information, gun licenses, restrictions on visiting abroad, title deeds and social security records can be retrieved online through CCIT. This allows speedy and effective resolution of cases and, more importantly, proper flow of information from respective institutions.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
CCIT aims to provide the judiciary with the benefits of IT which minimize human errors and prevent time, effort and money in order to achieve the goal of an impartial and reassuring justice system by improving the effectiveness, transparency and efficiency of the administrative and judicial activities of the Court of Cassation, expediting the business processes of CoC and building an electronic archive at CoC.
Priority was given to explicating this need to the management of the Court of Cassation in order to introduce IT in judicial activities. First, the CoC management was convinced by CoC IT personnel in this direction.
Second, intensive and continuous awareness raising and training activities were organized. The topics of the training series for CoC members, judges, prosecutors and other staff members included the benefits and methods of using IT in their work. Participants were encouraged with certificates and acknowledgment documents. In-house and external competence-based training activities were organized in particular for CoC IT personnel.
The resources needed for the activities were provided by the Government especially including the Ministry of Justice.
Laptop computers were distributed to all members, judges and prosecutors in order to promote the utilization of the system. In this regard, the hardware needs of the institution was met completely.
For the sake of document automation, document flow across the units and integrated institutions was completely digitized and use of physical documents was thus prevented.
All phases of the judicial activity can now be carried out electronically with a view to achieving the goal of paperless offices.
The processes are executed electronically with necessary monitoring and measuring methods in order to minimize potential human errors and abuses for the purpose of improving the transparency and accountability of judicial activities.
On the other hand, CoC members, rapporteur judges and public prosecutors can use the secure VPN connection to work more efficiently and regardless of time and space.
A cascading approach was adopted for introducing and expanding the system. The system was piloted and then expanded gradually, incorporating user groups of older ages at later stages. This approached has allowed addressing initial errors before scaling up the system.
One of the main strategies was to conduct an elaborative analysis. The business processes were identified by holding face-to-face meetings with all users, thereby minimizing design errors.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
In order to warrant successful implementation, the project was expanded gradually by taking account of the quality of the Court of Cassation in question and the demographic characteristics of the Court personnel. The software analysis phase started in 2003 and software design was completed in 2005. Roll-out activities which began in late 2005 were completed in March 2006 among rapporteur judges, prosecutors and registry staff.
The members of the Court of Cassation were included in the system in 2009 after smooth implementation at departmental level was secured and standards properly established. Within this scope, the roll-out of secure electronic signature practice was completed in September 2011. At this stage, physical documents were abandoned. Now, writs to first instance courts are issued electronically and e-signed before communication. Finally, the administrative units were incorporated in the system and physical documents in correspondence were abandoned altogether.
The project chronology is outlined below:
• Late 2003: Software development contract concluded
• 2004 - 2005: Software development
• 2005-2006: Software roll-out
• 2006 - ∞: Software implementation
• 2011: E-signature system completed and communication of physical writs to first instance courts abandoned
• 2012: Physical correspondence abandoned including those by the administrative units

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
CCIT has had its share from the usual resistance of people to every technological innovation. Initially, users found it difficult to drop the traditional way of working with paper. Some thought the change was big and posed risks. In particular, it took time for CoC members to acclimatize with the new technological practices and start using the system effectively, owing to relatively higher age average (56). To overcome this challenge, all hardware needs of all personnel were met.
Collective and individual trainings on all CCIT applications were organized at various times in order raise the competencies of respective staff members. In this context, at least two staff members from each unit were trained as "Expert CCIT Users" who are in charge of first response to issues.
Issues related to application use were addressed systematically. Requests were assessed before providing feedback.
The process of transition to CCIT was well planned in cooperation with senior CoC management and CoC IT Directorate by taking account of potential issues and setbacks. This stage was accomplished through quality, consistent and continuous process management interventions. The resistance among certain personnel was deflated by the commitment, persuasive power and practical circulars of the management. For instance, the chambers were officially notified that documents which are not communicated through CCIT would be returned to sender without processing, that the sender would be held accountable for any potential delay that might arise for con-compliance and that physical document processing and workflows must be stopped altogether.
A major obstacle in the implementation of CCIT was encountered in convincing users to e-sign CoC writs, notices and all official correspondence which require personal or committee signatures and to send electronic rather than physical documents to relevant units.
Firm in their belief that e-signature was not secure enough, users initially requested printouts affixed with original signatures. The management of the Court of Cassation set an example by starting to e-sign documents and sending e-signed documents to the chambers and other units. The management persisted in its policy of banning communication of physical copies. The transition to e-signature practice by chambers and units was further facilitated by the respective circulars, trainings by field experts and update supports by teams from the technical office.
To overcome these obstacles, younger personnel who are better adapted to IT use were identified as the priority target group and older personnel were included in the system later.
For the purpose of dealing with issues rapidly and efficiently, a call center was set up to respond to requests. The expert field team was mobilized whenever the call center did not manage to address the problems. An error reporting screen was created for software related errors and the errors reported by the testing team were resolved by the software team.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
The Court of Cassation has a total of 23 civil and 15 criminal chambers and administrative units. The Court has 375 members, 1004 rapporteur judges, 229 public prosecutors and 1514 registry personnel. In late 2004, laptop computers were distributed to CoC members, rapporteur judges and public prosecutors for use for professional purposes. The computers were renewed in 2009. Similarly, desktop computers, printers and scanners in sufficient numbers were provided to registry personnel. The budget of the CoC IT unit was increased parallel to the growth of the unit. The estimated 2013 budget of the IT unit is nearly 3 million USD.
The software company was paid approximately 1 million USD. Currently, the system is operated and improved by software experts at the Court of Cassation. A team of 75 including two judges, one prosecutor, one technical director, 13 software experts, 19 field support experts, 21 technical support experts, three system administrators, two web designers, five testing experts 2 file enquiry officers and 4 auxiliary staff members are involved in software maintenance and field implementation of the initiative.
For the sake of efficient use of public resources, the Ministry of Justice has set up a single central system in cooperation with the high courts. Under the system each institution is able to develop its own application software using the same software language, which is of utmost ease for integration. With user authorizations defined and the administration of the specific systems assumed by the respective institutions, this umbrella system has become a singular example of cloud computing used in the public sector.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
Given that the system is speedy, transparent, environment friendly (paperless offices), cost-effective and conducive to integration across institutions, it is easily replicable by the high courts internationally.
As regards costs in the short and long run, the system requires an initial investment. However, the financial requirements for the maintenance of the system would be insignificant in the long run, which is a key factor for sustainability.
The speed, quality and transparency of this system which is highly consistent with the needs of modern management is clearly indicative of social, cultural, organizational and administrative sustainability.
The system is environment friendly in that it saves considerable amount of paper and toner.
The representatives of high courts from other countries appreciate CCIT and particularly acknowledge that importance of introducing e-signature in a high court. The project is exemplary in that e-signature can be adopted and effectively and efficiently used in judicial activity by the members of high courts. The project now aims to create an integration with the European Court of Human Rights in order to help reduce the length of proceedings. This integration requires the completion of the technological infrastructure at Strasbourg Court.
The software language used in the project as well as the flexibility of the software make the system very suitable for replication by the high courts in other countries.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The Court of Cassation Information System has reduced the file disposition times, enhanced review and judgment signature processes, expedited access to necessary documents, eliminated file losses, safeguarded secure archival of files and raised security by keeping record of proceedings. The "Search Judgments" functionality enables all judges and prosecutors around the country to access the judgments of the Court of Cassation.
Besides expedited proceedings, the system has enhanced the public confidence in the Court of Cassation. Citizens, lawyers and institutions can follow up the stages of proceedings which concern them by using the file numbers. Pending files are rapidly reviewed, concluded and returned to local courts electronically without losing time in the postage process.
The dematerialization of judicial activities by CCIT has significantly reduced paper, stationery, postage and other similar costs. In addition, the initiative was created and implemented using local resources alone. The Court of Cassation develops its own software. The software was developed by national engineers, eliminating external dependence. The system is an exemplary project for the whole world.
CCIT has proven that using the latest technology in the operations of institutions can minimize human errors, significantly expedite transactions and proceedings and improve the security and transparency of judicial activities.
The project has also shown that ownership by the employees of an organization can bring about remarkable accomplishments.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Court of Cassation of the Republic of Turkey
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   EMRULLAH AYCI
Title:   Dr.  
Telephone/ Fax:   0090 312 416 10 07
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   Yargitay Baskanligi Ataturk Bulvari No: 100 Bakanliklar Cankaya
Postal Code:   06658
City:   ANKARA
Country:   Turkey

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