California abandons $2 billion court management system

California abandons $2 billion court management system

Summary: California's court management system is now officially dead. It's time for state legislators to examine how the state manages its multi-billion dollar budget.


Image credit: iStockphoto

Despite spending $500 million on the California Case Management System (CCMS), court officials terminated the project and allocated $8.6 million to determine whether they can salvage anything. In 2004, planners expected the system to cost $260 million; today, the price tag would be $2 billion if the project runs to completion.

The multi-billion project, started in 2001, was intended to automate California court operations with a common system across the state and replace 70 different legacy systems. Although benefits from the planned system seem clear, court leadership decided it could no longer afford the cost of completing the system, especially during this period of budget cuts, service reductions, and personnel layoffs. A vague statement on the California Courts website, explains:

“We have to develop a new vision for our branch technology infrastructure given our fiscal climate,” said Judge James E. Herman, chair of the committee. “We are committed to implementing a cost-effective, efficient technology that serves the public, litigants, attorneys, and trial courts.

Translation into plain English: "Branch offices across the state need this system but we just don't have the money to pay for it."


California has a rich history of expensive and wasteful IT projects. Although the state has an IT project tracking system, based on my research, I personally do not have confidence in California's IT project tracking website.


Did California's CIO mislead public on IT success?

Follow-up: Duration reporting in California's IT strategic plan

It's a shame that California cannot afford to continue the project, which would have brought substantial efficiencies to court system employees and also to private citizens seeking court-related information. Although the project seemed promising, the initiative has been plagued by poor management and lousy planning. A 2011 state audit (PDF download) highlighted the following issues:

Our review of the Administrative Office of the Courts' (AOC) oversight of the development of the statewide case management project revealed that the AOC:

  • Inadequately planned for the statewide case management project and did not analyze whether the project would be a cost-beneficial solution to the superior courts' needs.
  • Was unable to provide contemporaneous analysis and documentation supporting key decisions on the project's scope and direction.
  • Did not structure the development vendor's contract to adequately control cost and scope—over the course of seven years, the AOC entered into 102 amendments and increased the cost from $33 million to $310 million.
  • Failed to develop accurate cost estimates—in 2004 the cost estimate was $260 million and by 2010 the estimated cost was $1.9 billion.
  • Has not obtained the funding needed for statewide deployment and without full deployment to the 58 superior courts, the value of the project is diminished.

You may wonder how the state can run such a large project with these kinds of management deficiencies. Frankly, it's a great question.

An editorial in the Los Angeles Times summarizes the story:

California's Judicial Council — the leaders of the state's trial and appellate courts — voted to pull the plug on a statewide computer system that was designed to finally bring courts into the 21st century. There was very little choice: What would be the point in creating technologically competent courtrooms with shuttered doors? The council was right to shelve the Court Case Management System, use the funding to keep courts in operation and hope to salvage the system for use, or rebirth, or spare parts, in better economic times.

Bottom line: The project was a good idea but failed due to poor planning, management, oversight, governance, and controls. California's legislature should now conduct an in-depth investigation into how the state handles manages its multi-billion dollar IT budget.


CIO Magazine (IDG News Service): California Scraps Massive Courts Software Project

San Francisco Chronicle (Associated Press): Calif. courts scrap $2 billion computer project

Internet Evolution: California flushes $2B IT Project

California Judicial Branch website: California Case Management System

Mercury News: California courts scrap $2 billion tech project How the Branch Killed CCMS, and What It Means for Other Woes

Update 4/2/12: As a commenter on this post correctly points out, Deloitte was the contractor on this project.

Topic: CXO

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  • it's time to hold M$ responsible

    for this massive waste of tax dollars.
    The Linux Geek
    • Deloitte was the consulting company

      Let's hold Deloitte to account.
      Your Non Advocate
      • Two words... Deloitte and SAP

        I have never seen an sucessful SAP project and I have never seen a sucessful Deloitte project... Who was the brainiac who thought those two negatives could make a positive? Also, why didn't they put in some stops in the contract to prevent this type of fiasco from happening?

        And seriosuly... Why is the state of CA paying for this up front? They have all the bargaining power they need. They want the system and there are plenty of companies that would love to do it in trade for.. say... 20 years of tax exempt status. They could get this fixed today with no immediate impact to the budget/deficit.

        Oh... And Deloitte needs the sh1t sued out of them!!!
    • Good idea

      NT ;)
    • Holding Microsoft accountable?

      As much as I despise Microsoft, are you really certain they are responsible for this mess?

      Did Microsoft act as system integrator? or have you thrown the pail of s--- at them because their software was used on desktops?

      Understand this, I am creating this comment on a Linux system, and I have banished all things Microsoft from my home; but, I do not hold them completely responsible for the ineptness of bureaucrats, and the rank stupidity of management.
  • If I could just get 50 grand out of that

    2 billion, I would be pretty much set for life. Geez, what a waste.
    • really??

      $50k would set you for life? Where do you live?
      • You can't be serious

        Where do you live, in the Amazon? $50k is less than most IT Folks make in one year.
  • California IT failures are old news. Yawn.

    This kind of thing goes back at least to the DMV Database Redevelopment (DBR) project that was started in 1987 and failed miserably around 1994. That's just one example -- I wrote a paper in 1996 on California IT failures. Nothing has changed -- look up California Auditor's Report 94107 dated April 1994. It reads exactly the same as this article.
    • It may be old news, but still shows up in this year's tax bill

      and next year's, and so on. We the taxpayers keep paying for it long after the sharks and shysters run off with their pockets stuffed. That is the current news.
      terry flores
  • What a shocker

    California proves how government should NOT be run! Textbook example, AGAIN.
    • You shouldn't be shocked.

      > California proves how government should NOT be run! Textbook example, AGAIN.

      I TOTALLY agree! Once again private contractors fleece the people and don't deliver what they were paid to do. Government needs to stop relying on outside contractors whose actual productivity is opaque, and instead hire and manage employees to do the job internally.
  • Not the biggest rip-off ever...

    ...that award goes to the 16th Amendment.
  • California has a rich history of expensive and wasteful IT projects

    Should read "Any large government IT department has a rich history of expensive and wasteful IT projects". All the boys belly up to the trough...
    • Same everywhere

      The UKs' National Health Service went through a similar fiasco a couple of years back - bottom line is civil servants are simply incapable of managing big projects like this.

      Good news is a bunch of contractors make a fortune so at least we get some money back from their taxes.
    • You Paint With Too Broad A Brush

      So I'll assume you have no knowledge of that which you speak. I have worked with and had IT personnel under my supervision that I would put up against any IT department you consider tops. It has little or nothing to do with where they work but more to do with how well they are trained and the work ethics instilled. There are ill prepared people in all endeavors. Why do you suppose so many private businesses fail????
  • Laugh it up...

    ...but this is America's future. A massive all-consuming government run by public employee unions who destroy the very civilization they're parasitically feeding on.
    • Yep as California goes...

      so does the rest of the US....years after Europe was already there.

      Heh, heh, heh, and people still think they can get something for nothing...and that democrats are different from republicans.

      Good thing Cali has nice weather...that's all that's keeping people paying the REAL taxes imposed by the ever greedy govt!
      • And hillbillies buy into the republican support for the 1%

        most republicans will never benefit from the trough they fight so hard to support. The rich get richer and they have all their minions fighting to keep them there.
      • Are you kidding me?

        You really are trying to blame the Republicans for anything that goes on
        in California? They have 0 power in this state now that a budget can be passed on 50% vote. Follow the money and you will find that it runs to
        very well connected Democrats. There is no incentive among the bureaucracy to reform. The convoluted systems provide them job security and they manage to get a nice little rake as consultants when people try to bring reforms.