Case Center, formerly CaseLines, a cloud-based digital document- and evidence-sharing platform from Thomson Reuters, offers a convenient nexus where parties can upload, review, and present case documents. It provides useful assistance during any stage of litigation: arbitrations, mediations, depositions, dispositive motion practice, and in-person or remote hearings. This system can help in pretty much any situation where you have a hearing and multiple parties need to present documents. The goal is to make the sharing and presenting of information go smoothly.
What Types of Files Can It Handle?
Anything and everything. This system supports thousands of file types, including documents, Excel spreadsheets, PDFs, photographs, video files, audio files, and everything in between. You no longer need to worry whether the device you use will have the right video player installed to show a video during trial. You can upload almost any kind of file, and parties, agencies, and the public can upload files directly by email or smartphone. You can view it all in one work space. You can upload files into the system, or you can share a link to the party creating or producing the files so that person can upload files directly. Case Center has recently added an artificial intelligence (AI)–based multimedia transcription feature to help you navigate your multimedia documentation (video and audio files). As a security measure, Case Center runs a virus scan on files first to ensure nobody uploads malware or corrupted files.
Case Center from the Courthouse Perspective
E-filing may be prevalent in courthouses across the country, but that doesn’t always mean that judges have access to the e-file portal. In many cases, court staff print and provide copies of the e-filed documents to the judges, and counsel must still bring a paper or digital copy with them to court. As a result, we do not always see one of the fundamental advantages of e-filing: reducing the amount of paper.
Add to that the endless frustration attorneys experience because each clerk in their state seems to use a different standard for document filing. In one county you may need to file a motion and an order as a single document. In the neighboring county, you must file motions and orders separately or risk rejection by the clerk. Calls for statewide uniformity often go unheard. Frequent rejections of filings cost lawyers time and money.
Other problems often encountered when managing evidence include:
- PDF files are often too large to send by email or upload to the system, a problem compounded by the fact that splitting the file can take a fair amount of time and cause errors.
- Multiple versions of PDFs make it difficult to keep track of which ones replace earlier filings and which simply add to the file.
- Different people can end up viewing different versions of documents with pagination out of sync.
- Inconsistency in the application of optical character recognition (OCR) to the pages in a document makes searching the document cumbersome and faulty.
- Many people have legitimate concerns about the security of data shared via email.
Transporting your evidence to court on the day of trial poses additional problems. The accessibility of digital data has amplified the number of exhibits at trial. Will you prefer to roll boxes of paperwork in on dollies or pull up a website with everything loaded, tagged, and numbered consistently between all the parties involved?
Can we find a solution to these problems? Enter Case Center.
If the court has adopted Case Center, then the workflow starts with a clerk or judicial assistant setting up a matter in Case Center. They can create evidence folders and invite the parties (plaintiff’s counsel and defense counsel) to add their evidence to the folders. The parties get invited via an email link that will take them directly to the file upload page for that case. The parties then use that link to set up their access (registration is fast and simple), and then they can upload their material. Even a self-represented litigant can use this system. Case Center employs two-factor authentication in granting users access as an added security measure. The parties can review evidence/exhibits, prepare for their hearing, and present the evidence through the Case Center web browser at the hearing, and the judge can accept the exhibits and make annotations in real time. The clerk can record the exhibits, and they remain stored digitally and easily downloaded.
Files get uploaded into designated “bundles.” Provided bundle templates facilitate the process. You can also customize the bundles to suit your needs. Consider bundles like you would binders, and “sections” within bundles like dividers in a binder. Anyone can use the link you send them to upload a file. They have a designated time to upload files, but you can invite them again if they need more time. If you want someone to have unlimited upload access, you can also invite them to the case for that.
Once you have uploaded your files, you can do all sorts of things to make reviewing the evidence easy. The system automatically indexes the files and makes them searchable. You can upload a bookmarked PDF, and Case Center will divide it into separate files within a section. You can quickly create private annotations in a document that appear in the notes pane, helping you navigate even voluminous documents easily. You can use page notes in Case Center to act as digital bookmarks. You can cue up your video in advance to start at a specific time marker where you want it to begin, saving time trying to get it set up at trial. You can mark up the documents in the Case Center web browser using a touch screen device and stylus if you wish. One thing to note: When you jump around viewing documents, clicking the “previous page” link will take you back to the last page you viewed, not to the previous sequential page.
During a hearing, you can mark exhibits with built-in (but customizable) stamps concurrently with their presentation. Some stamps that come standard include:
- Shown to Jury
As each exhibit receives a stamp, the system digitally affixes the stamp to the exhibit in real time and catalogs it to keep exhibits with the same stamp together. This makes it easy to isolate documents later as needed (such as for jury review or for transfer to an appellate court).
Case Center for Parties/Counsel
When a case is created in Case Center, all the uploaded material gets collected into a “master bundle.” The master bundle functions like a digital banker’s box. Within a master bundle, you can create sub bundles and sections. As an example, you can build sub bundles for a specific hearing, a specific group, or even a specific person (such as an expert witness). You will need permission to change the case to be able to create a sub bundle.
To create a sub bundle, start on the “Case Details” page. From there, you will see a series of tabs at the top of the screen. Select the “Bundles” tab. The first thing you will notice in the Bundles tab is the master bundle—the starting point for all cases. You will also see the option “+ New Bundle”; select that. You then need to give the sub bundle an index number (“01,” “02,” etc.) and a name. Giving each sub bundle a number allows it to appear in sequence after the master bundle when navigating between bundles.
Once you have created a sub bundle, go to the settings for it on the Bundles tab. You can change the page format (letter, legal, etc.), the position of the page number, how it appears, and more. You can choose whether to include the master bundle pagination number along with the sub bundle pagination number. You can choose what to display in the index portion of your sub bundle (dates, section numbers, a front page, etc.). Importantly, you also choose which sections will be visible in each sub bundle. The sections function as file folders that group material together, giving structure to the case.
Once you designate settings, you can begin adding case materials. To do this, from the Bundles tab, select a section, then click “Upload Files” and add materials. You can upload into any sections that you can access (such as Plaintiff/Claimant, Defendant/Respondent Material, Applications and Orders, etc.). To reduce the manual effort of managing which uploaded files will be included in which bundles, sections within sub bundles can be set up to either “Include Documents by Default” or “Exclude Documents by Default.” If you want to include only a few of the items from a section and tightly control which files get added to each bundle, you will probably want to choose “Exclude Documents by Default.” This will exclude all materials except for the few you have gone through and chosen independently. Keep in mind that you will have to return to this screen and manually include documents added to the section later.
To double-check what documents you have included in your sub bundle, click the “Review Evidence” button in the header. On the Review screen, you will find the case materials listed in an index on the left side of the screen. At the top of the index, it indicates which bundle you are viewing. You can switch between bundles by selecting the arrow next to the bundle name. The system helps you maintain control when sharing evidence. You can restrict the access of other parties to only the information required while still ensuring consistent pagination for the matter.
You set up and manage sections similarly to bundles and sub bundles. You can create custom sections and sub-sections within each. For example, if you have multiple witnesses in a matter, you may have a section titled “Witness Statements” and sub-sections for “Witness A’s Statements,” “Witness B’s Statements,” and “Witness C’s Statements.” Doing so will allow for consistent pagination throughout the section and sub-sections. While creating sections, you can designate a section number/letter (01, 02, 03, or A, B, C) and other organizing details, including how you would like the files ordered (by date of the document, by number assigned when the file is uploaded, or alphabetically by the document title) and the section order (a numerical designation that indicates where the section will appear in the index). You also can select a level to set the appearance of the title in the “Index” tab and the “Sections” tab. You choose “Normal” or “Sub.” The system defaults to the Normal setting; Sub will designate the section as a sub-section.
Case Center Cost Breakdown
You can structure Case Center as an annual contract or pay-per-use. The Thomson Reuters account team will provide you with all cost options so you can find the package that best suits the needs of your legal organization.
One of Case Center’s features also qualifies as a flaw. Case Center lives exclusively in the cloud, and you access it via a web interface. While this means you can access it from any computer, tablet, or smartphone, it also means that you need good Internet access to use it. If the Internet goes down, you lose access. You cannot download a data file and run Case Center in an offline mode. Although you can download the entire matter as a PDF, with video and audio files downloaded separately, you still take the risk of losing access to Case Center and its features when using the system.
Overall, we consider Case Center an efficient and effective way to review and analyze evidentiary materials in preparation for a hearing. We think you should consider it for your litigation practice.
Thomson Reuters is a sponsor of the ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division, and this article appears pursuant to the Division’s agreement with them. Neither the ABA nor ABA entities endorse non-ABA products or services. This article is not an endorsement by the ABA or the Division of any Thomson Reuters product or service. The authors of this review received complimentary access to the product being reviewed for the purpose of enabling them to complete the review.