LUBBOCK, Texas — Four months after Lubbock County switched its court records software provider to Tyler Technologies, lawyers say technical problems are still delaying their cases and attempts to work with county leadership to resolve the issues have been unsuccessful.
“The rollout of this Tyler system has been an absolute debacle,” Lubbock trial attorney Ben Garcia said. “Whenever a person is charged with a crime… they have a right to see the evidence that the state has. That’s what we call discovery. Since the switch has been made to Tyler, we don’t have access to the discovery in the online portal. In fact, in a majority of my cases, I don’t have discovery, period.”
Garcia led a presentation on the issues in front of the county Commissioner’s Court in late October. He says little progress has been made since then.
“Nobody from IT or the County Judge’s office has reached out to us to try to create some sort of working group,” Garcia said. “It would be a good idea for the [county] judge to meet with the attorneys, to answer emails, to call together a working group. We would love to work with Judge Parrish to try to resolve these problems… We’re not really getting a lot of that interaction. So to us it kind of looks like inaction, and we’re kind of left in the dark.”
Tyler Technologies explained the issues do not stem from its software, but from difficulties in converting tens of millions of documents into a new system. Tyler describes the software as “the window into the data,” and that issues of inaccessibility to that data lie in the data itself. Tyler maintains the county’s decision to temporarily close down the portal was made independently, and its software worked as the county intended.
“In truth of where roles and responsibilities lie in this instance, the county had control,” Tyler Technologies Courts and Justice Division representative Rusty Smith said. “If it was a defect with the software itself, then that would be Tyler’s responsibility… in this instance, it was not a defect. It was performing as designed. It was the underlying data that had been transferred from the old system that needed additional changes to it… they were very much in control… We were available to assist them, but they were running with the ball.”
Smith stated the company does not have ongoing conversations with the county on this issue. The company remains available for support and training, but the original product they provided worked as intended.
“The citizens of Lubbock would do well to know that their tax dollars, which went to fund this system, were well spent,” Smith said. “It was an issue related to the transference of data which happens once in a generation when you change over these systems. The system itself was fully functional, and they’ve been receiving the value that their tax dollars were looking for.”
County Judge Curtis Parrish has also maintained the issue is not in Tyler Technologies’ product, but in the county’s administration of the data. However, lawyers like Garcia disagree.
“I don’t like the software that’s been delivered,” Garcia said. “As a taxpayer, I don’t feel like our money has been well spent. I’ve been nothing but frustrated with this new system. So I disagree with the characterization that everything was delivered and we ought to be happy with what we got. We don’t like it… It’s making everybody’s job harder.”
Garcia commended the county employees in the Office of Court Administration and the County Clerk’s office for their efforts to help lawyers access the records.
“The Office of Court Administration and the clerk’s offices, they have gone above and beyond to get us what we need,” he said. “They are doing what they can to try to make sure that the wheels of justice keep turning. There are people that have been working after hours, taking work home with them working on weekends, working on vacation. They are being excellent county employees, and they are going above and beyond… It’s not a laziness issue, it’s not a lack of caring.”
He cast doubt, however, on the effort coming from the IT department and county leadership.
“I’m grateful there are people at the courthouse who want to see the issues addressed, but it hasn’t been the IT department,” he said. “The organization over at the courthouse has the entire IT department reporting only to the county judge, and I think it makes more sense to have the IT department be answerable to the entire commissioner’s court.”
Garcia said he is unaware of any timeline in which the county will make progress toward solving these problems, but that a group of lawyers is in the process of gathering a list of complaints to submit to Tyler Technologies.
Meanwhile, the company defended its product and said this is the same software used by governments that represent half the American population.
Smith said, “It’s the premier solution in the country, and it’s performed for Lubbock County as they needed it to. As Judge Parrish has said, changeovers in systems of this magnitude have some settling-in periods.”
Regardless of where these issues originated, Garcia stressed that the county should take a more proactive stance towards forming a working group, and suggested every county resident should take an interest in the process.