Maryland OPD Rolls Out District Dashboards Thanks to VISTA

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Release Date: 
Friday, December 10, 2021

Emma, serving for the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, played an instrumental role in creating a Data Dashboard for the statewide agency. Read on to learn how Maryland is using it to expand holistic defense. 

Maryland Office of the Public Defender IT first introduced Power BI to the agency about a year after switching to a new case management system, eDefender. The process of adopting the new system included working with developers to customize the features of eDefender to do what OPD attorneys need and training attorneys and staff on data entry and case searching.

Most of the adoption and development were completed before January of 2021, when the Data Systems VISTA year began. Since then, Emma has helped with the second phase of capacity development -- reporting! The agency hopes to become more data centric in the coming years, producing sophisticated reports to publish and dashboards to make data analysis accessible to supervisors and attorneys. All reporting will help OPD make more informed, evidence-based decisions, which will in turn improve case outcomes.

Aside from the Annual Report, the first data project tackled was the District Public Defender Dashboards: a District level overview of attorney caseload made accessible to Supervising Attorneys to assist in daily decision making, such as case assignments. Of course, the effectiveness of the dashboard tool depends on the accuracy of the data entry because without timely updates to the case entry throughout each stage of the case, little information can be learned from the data.


As mentioned, our trainers and supervisors work closely with attorneys to make sure that they have the knowledge and resources to dedicate to data entry. We also hope that adoption and buy in will grow as the agency sees how eDefender and these reporting tools are being used. For example, an attorney may be pressed for time to enter updates on events and dispositions, but if their cases are being updated consistently, their supervisor will have a better picture of their current workload. They may be less likely to add to their workload by assigning another case when they are in a work intensive stage in another case, such as the pre-trial for a Circuit court case with a severe charge.


Being a statewide system, the Maryland Office of the Public Defender’s central administration oversees 12 Districts containing 85 offices. With this organizational structure, it can be challenging to arrive at standards that satisfy each of the office’s unique data needs. The eDefender team, District leads, and Division chiefs have worked together to create a system that is tailored to each type of law practiced within the agency, and have left many opportunities for growth and change. Flexibility is seen as a key to success in the development of eDefender and the reporting model.


Another central goal of the OPD data systems is to reduce the time that must be spent in data entry so that attorneys can continue to fully invest in their clients while still producing the reports we need to support their work.


We hope to refine our methods along the way and provide a model for other public defender’s offices to use their case management systems to their fullest potential!