Editor’s Note: Today our guest bloggers are Mark Switalski, Macomb County Circuit Court Chief Judge and Carmella Sabaugh, Macomb County Clerk / Register of Deeds. The Macomb County Court and Clerk/Register of Deeds Office has gone Google to control costs, improve service, and keep innovating.
The Macomb County Circuit Court and Clerk / Register of Deeds border Detroit (“Motown”) to the northeast. Nestled on 31-miles of Lake St. Clair shoreline, and home to nearly 830,000 residents and growing, Macomb is Michigan’s third most populated county. Near Michigan’s two Big Ten universities, workforce training is also provided by Macomb County Community College, Michigan’s largest grantor of associate degrees with over 22,000 students. The county boasts three regional hospitals, expansive parkland, nearly 100 miles of hike/bike trails, and more than 1,900 retail establishments. Waterways hold 52,000 registered boats, and toll-free expressways provide quick access to two international airports and two international bridges to neighboring Canada. Brimming with engineers and skilled workers, the county accounts for 61 percent of Defense Department contracts awarded in Michigan.
Macomb County judges are among the most efficient at meeting State Court Administrative guidelines despite having the highest caseloads per circuit court judge across the state. Last year, we had to cut over $1.4 million from our budgets and downsize our workforce. We needed tools to meet the challenge of increasing caseloads and decreasing staff.
308 county court users recently joined 68 clerk staff on Google Apps for Government. Google Apps provides a way for judges and staff to access information anytime, anywhere and find things fast, while keeping costs down. Google lets us do more, despite budget cuts.
Google Apps for Government gives our employees great collaboration tools we never had before. County staff use Google Talk to communicate with clerks while they are in court or on the phone for quick answers. Jury staff use Google Docs to post juror Web updates without Web publishing software, even when working from home during bad weather. We can even send text messages from a computer to attorneys’ phones when their cases are being called. This is helpful when attorneys have cases in multiple courts and a judge wants to speed the docket along.
Our county has over 80,000 immigrants, speaking 40 languages, which is one reason staff appreciate the option to use Google Translate in Gmail. Viewing e-mail attachments in different formats is easy. Check out our short videos and information about our experience using Google Apps.
Besides the enhanced productivity, we know that when a disaster happens, our system will not go down and because our data is in the cloud, it is protected and accessible from anywhere. After a rare tornado hit last summer, briefly disrupting power and some network services, the clerk’s Google service remained accessible via cell phone and other networks until the county’s network and e-mail were restored.
The biggest draw for us to go Google is the cost control that comes with cloud computing. For a fixed per employee cost, the county gets Google Apps for Government and Google Message Discovery for archiving and e-discovery. There is no additional cost for servers, backup, antivirus or antispam protection, or disaster recovery. When new enhancements are available, there is no need for extra investment. Savings are also realized because Google Apps for Government has zero scheduled downtime! Maintenance is performed while the system is running. Our IT Department staff who have become proficient with Google Apps for Government are making themselves more valuable to the taxpayers.
We in Macomb County are pleased so far with the decision to improve service and control technology costs by switching to Google Apps for Government. Instead of spending time and resources to administer computer hardware and software, we can better focus on administering justice.