CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A new class-action lawsuit filed against eCourts, the new computer system intended for deployment in North Carolina courts statewide, alleges the technology has resulted in civil justice violations. The plaintiffs allege hundreds of people have been wrongfully detained already in just the four North Carolina counties testing the system.
The North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) reported that within the first six weeks of use, the technology, which is created by Tyler Technologies, experienced more than 570 glitches, according to the lawsuit. WCNC Charlotte previously reported that hundreds of glitches had frustrated Robert Reives, the House Democratic leader, prompting him to call for a full-blown investigation into eCourts software.
Reives called off the need for an immediate investigation after his conversation with the AOC. In April, a spokesperson for the court said they appreciated Reives' "accessibility and willingness to allow us to correct significant misinformation he had heard," Graham Wilson, the communications director for the North Carolina Judicial Branch, wrote to WCNC Charlotte at the time.
Now this new lawsuit alleges people are being wrongfully detained, sometimes multiple times for charges that were already dismissed. The plaintiffs also allege people are being held in custody for days longer than necessary.
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Timia Chaplin, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said she was arrested on a warrant that had already been dismissed by a judge.
The other plaintiff, Paulino Castellanos, claims he was detained fourteen days longer than necessary after his case was "lost" during the migration from paper records to the new digital system.
“Almost everyone supports digitizing our state’s court system,” Gagan Gupta, an attorney for the Plaintiffs, wrote in a released statement. “But that effort cannot come at the expense of people’s constitutional rights. The courts are meant to protect our fundamental civil liberties. Since the adoption of eCourts on February 13, 2023, the courts are no longer competently carrying out that sacred duty.”
eCourts is being used in Wake, Lee, Harnett and Johnston counties, the four places where the state intended to test the software. Deployments to other areas, including Mecklenburg Count and Charlotte, have been indefinitely delayed.
The suit blames Tyler Technologies for the faulty system. The sheriffs of Wake and Lee counties are also named as defendants.
Reporting by WCNC Charlotte's Michelle Boudin has uncovered similar lawsuits across the country. Those lawsuits have cost taxpayers millions elsewhere in the country, and critics of the new software in North Carolina, fear taxpayers could be on the hook in the Tar Heel state too.
In response to the lawsuit, the NCAOC told WCNC Charlotte in a released statement:
"NCAOC is not a named party to this lawsuit and has no comment on the merits of the lawsuit at this time," the spokesperson said. "Since launching eCourts, NCAOC has consistently solicited court officials, attorneys, and the public to report any issues like those alleged in the complaint. We have investigated each report we have received and have not substantiated that any allegation of wrongful arrest or incarceration was caused by Odyssey (eCourts)."
Tyler Technologies had no comment on the lawsuit Tuesday.