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Lubbock County Not Only One With Tyler Technologies Software Issues

Tyler Technologies Office in Lubbock
Rob Avila
Texas Tech Public Media
Tyler Technologies Office in Lubbock

Lubbock area Criminal Defense attorneys were left frustrated during their monthly meeting last Thursday, following a Zoom presentation by a staff member from the Lubbock County District Attorney’s Office.

The remote presentation explained the “workarounds” county staff used to navigate their new Tyler Technologies’ Odyssey Case Manager software to provide defense attorneys with their clients' case information from prosecutors.

It showed county staff having their own difficulties with the system, but provided little information on improving defense attorneys’ frustrations attempting to get this discovery in a timely matter.

Chris Wanner, President of the Lubbock Criminal Defense Lawyer Association, described the current situation.

“The discovery people in the DA 's office are communicating well and are finding really good workarounds that are allowing us to get discovery,” he said. “But it's very time consuming on their end, and it's slowing them down.”

The situation reflects one of multiple software transition issues Lubbock County is still working to address since implementing Tyler Technologies computer software system in August, as part of an agreement valued around $10 million.

For the criminal justice system, this includes reports of people wrongfully jailed, private court records made accessible to the public and defense attorneys struggling to obtain discovery from prosecutors.

From civil law courts, family law attorneys have reported difficulty obtaining records no longer fully accessible online under the new system.

Attorneys praise county court staff on their workaround efforts during this transition. However, their frustration stems from the lack of communication from those in charge of implementing the new system.

Lubbock is not alone experiencing software transition issues from Tyler Technologies.

The company has been blamed for multiple technical errors around the country, with incidents frequently reported occurring during the transition period.

In Alamedia County California in 2016, the area Public Defenders office reported finding dozens of cases of people wrongfully arrested or wrongfully jailed, after switching to Tyler’s Odyssey Case Manager software system. In Marion County, Indiana those wrongfully jailed sued for similar alleged issues in 2014.

More recently in Memphis, Tennessee, Tyler Technologies is settling a $4.9 million federal class-action lawsuit as co-defendants alongside Shelby County officials, for reports of people left wrongfully jailed during the transition to the new software.

Shelby County has already approved $2.45 million for the settlement, while Tyler’s payout in the proposed settlement is $816,668.

Wichita Falls implemented Tyler Technologies Odyssey Case Manager in July 2019. The county’s District Clerk, Patti Flores, said they're still experiencing problems they’ve had from the start.

Flores said, Similar to Lubbock, they experienced wrongful jail issues initially, but said they've made tedious adjustments to make sure that no longer occurs.

“It's just a matter of us, in the sheriff's department in the bond office, checking and checking, and we have a court administrator's office that checks the jail roster every day,” she said. “So, we usually catch things fairly quickly, and we can get it fixed.”

Flores said some issues have been resolved, including most data access issues related to converting from the old system, but the county doesn’t have a clear timeline for current issues they’re still working to resolve. Software workarounds and monthly meetings on issues have become the new normal for Wichita county employees using Tyler’s system.

Before monthly meetings, Flores initially organized a group of county employees to write down issues they see and regularly discuss and address these software problems.

“We started meeting because I was like, ‘am I the only one having this problem?’ Because I was the biggest complainer, and finally got meetings going and everybody was having the same problems,” she said.

When told of Lubbock’s issues, Flores advised creating a similar group to write down problems that need to be fixed and to stay in communication with those in charge of implementing the software.

Lubbock County Director of Court Administration Dean Stanzione declined to comment directly on Lubbock’s reported transition challenges or compare them to other counties, but stated they’ve organized their own internal group.

In an email, Stanzione said they’ve developed, “a group of internal criminal justice stakeholders who now have been meeting weekly to communicate about and troubleshoot internal process issues.”

He stated, “It’s a group of departments working together to identify process issues, reach resolutions, create efficiencies, and, in some sense, create accountability to get tasks completed."

Update 10/29: Attorneys voiced their concerns to Lubbock County Commissioners during their work meeting on Oct. 29. County Commissioners approved the decision to transition to Tyler Technologies computer software in 2018.

Comments during Commissioner meeting on County software issues
Rob Avila
Attorneys lined up to comment on Tyler Technologies software issues during the Lubbock County Commissioner's work meeting on Oct. 29

Local attorney Ben Garcia led a presentation to commissioners during the meeting, describing the issues created by the new software transition.

Presentation on Software issues Commissioner work meeting Oct. 29
Rob Avila
Ben Garcia (right) presents to County Commissioners the issues attorneys have seen with Tyler Technologies Odyssey Case Manager software

During the presentation, Dwight McDonald, Director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at Texas Tech school of law, spoke on how county court employees were affected by the new software.

"I don't know if you all talk to the people who work in this courthouse," he said to the commissioners. "I'm going to suggest to that you start talking to people in this courthouse to find out how terrible this system is."

Dwight McDonald
Rob Avila
Dwight McDonald addressing County Commissioners on Tyler Technologies software issues

Mcdonald then described court employees who thanked him privately for getting the software issue scheduled on the commissioner's agenda. They wanted people to know how difficult the system had made their work, and appreciated his efforts. One of them cried.

You shouldn't have to cry because someone is trying to help you do your job," he said. "We should all be working together to try to resolve this and people should be free to speak their mind and give their opinion."