Processing felony and misdemeanor information hasn’t always been an easy task for the Public Defender’s Office - 4th Circuit in Jacksonville, Florida. Originally, the process of receiving, handling, and entering court details into their database relied on paper documents that were delivered by hand and entered manually by full-time data entry employees.
But when the county clerk’s office stopped accepting paper documents, the IT team at the Public Defender’s Office knew they had a chance to streamline how their users retrieved, scanned, uploaded, and secured sensitive case data. They believed there was a better way to process information—so they found a solution that reduced employee workloads, improved internal collaboration projects, and satisfied compliance requirements for web service connections and e-filing.
That solution was GoAnywhere MFT, a managed file transfer product from HelpSystems.
They say "justice never sleeps," and that holds true for the Public Defender’s Office - 4th Circuit, a Florida state agency that provides professional legal services to individuals in criminal and civil proceedings. Due to the sensitive nature of the data they process daily, this Public Defender’s Office needs information to move efficiently and securely.
For years, the Public Defender’s Office exchanged data with the local sheriff's office and the county clerk’s office via paper files. These documents included sensitive details about current court filings, such as client and attorney names, case numbers, and legal verbiage. They’d be printed and signed by an attorney, then handed to a clerk, who would walk those documents to the clerk’s office a couple blocks away and file them by hand.
When the clerk’s office decided to go paperless, the IT team at the Public Defender’s Office started to search for a file transfer solution that would streamline the exchange of files between the clerks, attorneys, and even the paralegals they occasionally worked with. The solution also needed to run over 1,000 file transfers a week, work in a web browser, meet a long list of specific requirements including strict rules for e-filing, and reduce the manual data entry they spent so much time on.
The Public Defender’s Office decided on two solutions: an imaging solution to scan legal documents into electronic files and place them in a queue, and GoAnywhere MFT to take the files from the queue and do everything else.
"GoAnywhere processes the e-filing for each [of our three counties] separately," said Joseph Frasier, IT Director at the Public Defender’s Office - 4th Circuit. "It retrieves documents, does XML [translation], does all requirements, does encryption, does HTTPS web services, and emails a copy to the service for each one. Think about that... It’s doing many different things for each task. It’s a very, very effective tool."
After GoAnywhere’s services team helped configure the product to the Public Defender’s Office’s exact needs, they implemented it in their environment. The file transfer processes have worked flawlessly since. "We rely on GoAnywhere one hundred percent," Frasier explained. "We’ve been able to speed up our felony and misdemeanor data inputting, and that’s been so effective that we’re down to one full-time data entry person."
For an organization in the public sector, compliance is critical. After implementation, the Public Defender’s Office - 4th Circuit found GoAnywhere MFT helped meet key compliance requirements by establishing a secure connection with the state e-file HTTPS portal and by using Base64 to encode every document (which converts binary data into ASCII text).
Frasier’s team also set up GoAnywhere’s GoDrive module, a collaboration tool for internal teams and third-party vendors, to ensure all information shared between them remained private and encrypted. Previously, they’d used Dropbox to connect paralegals with private vendors. But the cloud file hosting platform wasn’t secure enough for their collaboration needs, and when it became too expensive for the size and users they had to accommodate, they switched to GoDrive—a perfect fit.
"We took GoDrive and created a secure web portal on the internet through a firewall. We set up vendors with an ID and an access level. When the paralegal has a document they want to share outward to a vendor, it has to be encrypted and secure," Frasier said. "Using GoDrive, it’s as if we have our own private Dropbox. It works very well."
GoAnywhere MFT doesn’t just do batch filing and encryption. Frasier’s team is also adding GoAnywhere’s Secure Folders module to simplify how video evidence is received and stored from the prosecutor’s office.
Currently, video evidence is kept on physical CDs, DVDs, or BLU-ray disks. Because of the size of these files, they can’t be sent easily between locations. In order to pass this information between offices, the clerk has to pick up the disks and deliver them to the attorney or secretary, who then copies the disk onto a desktop. This means there are a lot of disks that can end up lost or damaged—which can severely stall an investigation.
GoAnywhere’s Secure Folders module can handle large files and keep them protected from outside risks. With this secure browser-based module at work, Frasier looks forward to eliminating the risks involved in handling and tracking physical disks.
How will it work? The video files will be uploaded into a folder on a GoAnywhere server that’s accessible to authorized users only. These users will be able to download and play the file directly from the folder, thus eliminating the need to transfer physical disks between offices. And when a court case is closed, the video file will be archived from the folder in GoAnywhere, cutting physical disks out of the process entirely.
When asked what he thought GoAnywhere’s biggest strengths were, Frasier didn’t hesitate. "Support," he said. "Any product is worth its weight in gold if you have a company that backs it up. Engineering to sales to support is all important and is very satisfying."
"This product is mission critical to what we do," he added. "Support is quick to respond and actually taught me how to use GoAnywhere instead of just doing things for me. That is valuable."
You can learn more about the Public Defender’s Office - 4th Circuit by visiting their website.
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