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March 2000 Interview-Judge Nesi


Judge Anthony R. Nesi

Hon. Anthony R. Nesi is a circuit judge of the Probate and
Family Court. In his capacity as Director of the Trial Court's Information
Technology Project, he is also a leader in the judiciary's various automation
initiatives. In this recent interview Judge Nesi discusses the Trial Court's
demonstration project with the Social Law Library in which judges from
throughout the state are utilizing the Library's online databases for their
routine legal research of Massachusetts materials. Judge Nesi also talks about
his own use of the Library's databases when he travels from courthouse to
courthouse in Bristol County.

SLL: What are your responsibilities as Director of
the Trial Court's statewide Information Technology Project?

JUDGE NESI: I work with Chief Justice Barbara
Dortch-Okara, her Information Technology staff and the IT Project Advisory
Board to oversee the development and implementation of comprehensive case
management automation in the Trial Court. SLL: When will the work be
substantially complete?

JUDGE NESI: Approximately three years. But people
will see a tremendous change over the next 12 months.

SLL: What kind of change?

JUDGE NESI: We'll be rolling out criminal
applications on the District Court side built upon the system now running in
the Boston Municipal Court, and extend the civil system now being piloted.
We'll be rolling out applications for Probate and Family Court. The
Y2K-compliant version of the Superior Court's Forecourt software, which is now
in three counties, will be expanded statewide. The Land Court is already
substantially done. And the Juvenile Court and Housing Court already have
applications in their divisions throughout the state. So we will see some
measure of automation throughout the Trial Court in roughly the next year.

SLL: Let's move from the "macro" picture to
the "micro." To what extent has the Trial Court encouraged judges to
use personal computers?

JUDGE NESI: One of the first steps in moving forward
on automation was to give each judge a laptop computer. Judges have been
utilizing these for legal research, word processing, email, communications, and
some personal case management.

SLL: Now that judges have laptop computers, they can
conduct computerized legal research from courthouses throughout the state.
Readers may be interested in the statewide demonstration project whereby Trial
Court judges and other court personnel are researching the Social Law Library's
Web-based databases.

JUDGE NESI: The pilot project involves judges and
court staff that geographically are spread throughout the Trial Court and
across each of the seven departments of the Trial Court, so I think we've
gotten an opportunity for a lot of people to use the Library's online databases
for their day-to-day research needs.

SLL: And are judges using the databases?

JUDGE NESI: Yes. From the survey results that I've
seen, judges and other court personnel are extremely pleased with what they're
getting. Personally, it's become my primary way of looking things up quickly.
SLL: What do you use the Social Law Library's databases for?

JUDGE NESI: My focus is primarily on the Rules of
Domestic Relations Procedure, the statutes, and the Massachusetts cases.

SLL: How frequently do you research via the Library's
Web databases?

JUDGE NESI: Having them available instantaneously on
my desktop is a big plus when I need a quick statutory check of language, or I
need to pull up a case. I use it whenever the need arises. I wouldn't say it
falls on a daily basis, but it is with regularity. It's obviously much, much
faster and easier than traditional research.

SLL: Do you consider yourself sophisticated in
computerized legal research?

JUDGE NESI: No. For a person who is not a
well-trained electronic legal researcher it's proven to be a nice and simple
interface that lets me find what I need easily. Whenever I've used it it's been
wonderful. And compared to commercial products that I subscribe to on CD-ROM,
without mentioning any names, the Library's interface for an amateur like
myself is easy to use and gets me the answer I want quickly.

SLL: Are more judges becoming computer literate?

JUDGE NESI: Absolutely. When we first gave all the
judges their laptops it was a new experience for many of them. The number of
judges who are finding ways to use those laptops increases every day.

SLL: Do you think that all, or most, judges will
routinely be doing online legal research in the near future?

JUDGE NESI: Clearly we want to find ways for all
judges and law clerks to have access through the Trial Court's networks to
online legal research. The current demonstration project, where Trial Court
judges across the state are now accessing the Social Law Library's Web-based
databases, demonstrates the ease and utility of computerized legal research for
routine Massachusetts-based legal research.

SLL: What remains to be done to get all judges

JUDGE NESI: At this point judges' laptops are not yet
connected to the Trial Court network. Our goal is to develop a "judge
anywhere" capability, whereby judges can plug their laptops in from any
court location and be able to access the full-array of services seamlessly via
the Trial Court's network. For instance, regardless of whether I'm in Fall
River today or New Bedford tomorrow, the goal is for me to go from
place-to-place and get online without reconfiguring my laptop. That's not cheap
to accomplish, but it's something we're going to get to as we move down the
road. We are going to have the greatest benefits when judges in all
Massachusetts courthouses will be able to plug in their laptops, from either
the bench or the lobby, to access the Trial Court's network for research,
scheduling data and all the other services that the Information Technology
Project is working to support the judicial system.

Interview- Attorney Edward P. Ryan, Jr. Join the Social Law Library Today!

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