Complex Case Management An Introduction to CaseMap By:
Bill E. Branscum
My original title for this article was, "CaseMap, Nothing
but the Same Old Thing," but after some reflection,
I thought my point could be missed by those who might read nothing
further as they are not interested in, "the same old thing."
That would be unfortunate so, for the moment, let's just say that
those of you "old school" Investigators, with experience
handling very complex cases involving voluminous documents, and
overwhelming information management issues, will appreciate CaseMap
as a way to do what you have always done, but far more efficiently.
Although CSI fans may find this difficult to believe,
Investigators are not the most "open minded" individuals,
and it can be very difficult to persuade them to embrace new technology.
For example, if you look at almost any law enforcement organization,
you will find some Investigators armed with the latest polymer semi-automatic,
hi-capacity handguns, while many of their veteran counterparts continue
to carry snub nose revolvers, or semi-automatic pistols designed
I am sure that some of you remember when the first
PC's showed up at your offices, and the hullabaloo that created
amongst those who were perfectly happy banging out reports on the
venerable IBM Selectric II. I believe the entire transition would
have gone far more smoothly and painlessly had those responsible
laid an, "It's basically the same thing," foundation
before touting all the technological advances; hence, my approach
I also choose this approach because presenting CaseMap
as "the same old thing" allows me to review the
"old school" methods that many Investigators who have
not had the benefit of that sort of training and/or experience may
not be familiar with. Beginning with the basics, and fundamentals,
seems to me to be a very good place to start.
Before we begin, I think you should ask yourself,
"Do you like puzzles; can you sit at a table all day organizing
puzzle pieces, and working out where they fit?" "Do you
like fishing; can you sit quietly watching a cork float for hours,
or launch cast, after cast, after cast in anticipation of the moment
when something happens?" "Do you like to read; can you
get immersed in what you're reading and remember what you've read?
Are you diligent, methodical, organized and patient?"
In a way, albeit a very small way, working complex cases is a lot
like surveillance, or underwater basket weaving - some people are
well suited for this kind of work, and some people are not. The
truth is, if you aspire to be Magnum PI, Jim Rockford, or one of
Charlie's Angels, your grandmother may be a lot better suited to
complex case work than you are.
Granny, or your sister the Librarian, would also be able to make
more money in a few months than most of the TV investigator wannabes
make in a year. Real money is there to be made in the investigation
of complex cases because real money is usually at stake, and the
likelihood that you will be hired to work these cases is directly
related to the extent to which you can provide a service that your
potential Client needs.
The facts are what they are, the evidence is what
it is; having command of the information is the closest it is possible
to become to having command of the case.
In some cases, documents may arrive in cardboard
banker's boxes which, utilitarian though they may be, invariably
wind up tattered and torn. I prefer to repackage them in
plastic file boxes, with the most important docs filed in
lockable, secure storage.
No matter how your documents are acquired, the question
is, how do you manage them -- what do you do? For those
looking for an easy way, some technological marvel that
will do your investigative work for you, you're out of luck.
There is no "free lunch," let's bust that bubble at the
outset - whether your approach is old school, or hi-tech, you must
go thru them all, document by document, page by page.
Whether you are assigned to a case from it's inception, or brought
into a case just prior to trial, at some point early on in your
involvement, documents begin to arrive. Sometimes voluminous, often
fairly well organized, but seldom complete, the first batch of documents
is often produced by the Client - unless you have been brought in
after the case is well underway. In that case, the documents you
first encounter may be some sort of discovery submission. From the
first information you are provided, thru the last minute provision
of late-breaking discovery, the case investigator must read thru,
process, and organize it all.
Now, I can almost hear someone saying, "I ain't interested
in learning to do no paralegal's job! This stuff is the lawyer's
problem." To those Neanderthal nitwit few, I can only
1. Paralegals are the unsung heroes of this business, and many
of them make more money than you do; and
2. A first rate Paralegal makes more money than you do, largely
because they are worth significantly more money than you are;
3. It would be a lot easier to train a competent Paralegal,
or a Librarian, to investigate complex financial cases than
it would be to make any headway with you - don't go away mad.
For those of you who are interested in the investigation of complex
cases, let's move on.
Let us suppose for a moment that it is 1955, General Motors has
just produced a car that will be the rage of automotive enthusiasts
for generations to come, and Mrs. Gates has just given birth to
William, having no idea that "Billy Boy" is going to change
the world, and own a big part of it. There is no such thing as a
personal computer, appointments are not tracked on personal digital
assistants, there is no Internet, but you, as the professional investigator
of the day, still have; organized crime, international espionage,
convoluted criminal conspiracies, the voluminous piles of paperwork
seized pursuant to search warrants, and so forth to deal with.
As you might imagine, the task could be overwhelming, especially
if improperly approached, but look at the bright side - the photocopier
has been commercially available for about five years.
Information overload can be overwhelming, but by way of illustration,
think about another overwhelming mess that we ar all too familiar
with - the arduous task of cleaning out a cluttered garage. You
know the type, one of those things that hasn't had a car in it for
about ten years because it has become the dumping spot for every
bit of family "stuff" that didn't belong somewhere else.
Nothing else comes to mind that so closely parallels the Investigator's
job in trying to find, sort, organize and evaluate overwhelming
amounts of information.
Sure, you can get out in it, stumble around, and move stuff from
here to there and back again (which is precisely the way information
is often handled), but the best way to tackle this task is to take
everything out, sort thru it piece-by-piece, clean everything up
that you are going to keep, stow it in its proper place, and dispose
of the rest. Once you have cleaned out a few hundred of these garages,
you'll shake your head at the fool who thinks the job can be done
any other way.
Otherwise, you will be forever saying, "I know I saw that
somewhere in here."
You handle overwhelming amounts of information
precisely the same way. In 1955, you would have used the ubiquitous
index card to sort and organize your information. To put this
in familiar perspective, let's say that your investigative
assignment was to analyze the Bible, find all relevant information
therein, sort it and organize it. In other words, for those
familiar with the Bible, you need to produce a Concordance.
For those who may not be familiar with that term, a Concordance
is an alphabetical index of everything in the Bible.
While this may seem an impossible task, the first published
Concordance was in the year 1470 AD; obviously, they managed
it without a computer.
Aside from being familiar, there is another utility to this example
- it should make the method intuitively obvious. Specifically, it
would make no sense to start by making a file card named Moses,
and then reading thru the Bible, dutifully recording each and every
reference to Moses, and then making a card for Abraham, and re-reading
the Book. Common sense should dictate that you would begin on page
one, and read each page carefully, generating file cards for each
subject as you go. That way, you are only required to read the entire
Book one time.
A competent Investigator processes case information the same way.
As was the case with a Concordance, our system must be relational,
in that it will provide us with information as to the who, what,
when, where, why and how, but it must also be referential, which
is to say that it must also allow us to refer back to the source
of the information. A phone book, for example, is relational in
that it tells us who lives where and with what phone number, but
it is not referential in that it does not tell us where the information
comes from - and there is no need since it all comes from one source.
To be referential, our system must provide a way
to uniquely identify our source documents. This requirement
was ordinarily met by means of a Bates Stamp device that automatically
indexes to the next number with each stamp of the device, automatically
inking the stamp too. Numeric adjustments were accomplished
by means of a wooden (or plastic) stylus that would not damage
Once a page was stamped for identification, it
could be examined for relevant information. The information
was then entered onto the relevant card and placed in the associated
box. The boxes were typically segregated as to: Alpha - Persons/Corps,
Numerics (such as addresses, phone numbers, bank accounts),
Undeveloped Leads, Chronological Events, and a Document Index.
All case related Persons were entered into the
appropriate file box, and a savvy Investigator soon found that
it was wise to add Persons of general interest to a free standing
Rolodex or Contact Book as well. For example, a witness might
be relevant only to the instant case, but an expert witness
might be useful in other cases as well.
Again, the most significant aspect to this system was referential.
Whether you do your analysis by hand using index cards, or a specialized
program like CaseMap, the objective is to thoroughly glean all relevant
information, and do it in a referential way that allows you to return
to the underlying document that provided the information.
No more, "I think I saw . . ., now where did it say that?"
For example, using the index card system, suppose our first stack
of documents are bank statements for account number 1234567 at First
National Bank/Miami, belonging to Jane Q. Blow. Ka-chunk, ka-chunk,
ka-chunk . . . using our Bates Stamp device, we number those bank
statements 00001 thru 00359. Once they are all numbered, we review
them page-by-page. The very first page provides:
Name of Subject to be Jane Quinn Blow - so we create an Alpha Person
Address of JQB is 13425 Anystreet, Anywhere USA - so we create a
Numeric card for the address
Phone Number of JQB is (555) 987-6543 - so we create a Numeric
card for the phone number
On January 23, 2000, check #245 in the amount of $1545, made payable
to Jane Q. Blow was debited from JQB's account number 1234567 at
First National Bank/Miami.- so we create a Chronology card
Yes, this is a tedious, time consuming
process, but there is no other way to master the information
in a case file, and your diligence will be rewarded in the end.
When you encounter a phone number, you will immediately recognize
it if you ever saw it before. When a corporate entity's filings
reflect an address you have seen before, you can identify it.
Each financial transaction, each phone call, each public record
. . . everything, gets a chronological index card - by the time
we are done, we have every event that we can identify documented
on an individual card, and sorted in chronological order. With each
event, all we need do is pull the card to see which piece of evidence
we would need to refer back to in order to support our statement.
At the same time, we created subject cards for every person, organization,
vehicle, etc., that we encountered along the way and each time we
found something else related to these subjects in the records as
we examined them, it was duly noted on their card, along with the
reference number, so we know where we got the information.
Now, I can just see the modern day Thomas Magnum wannabe, with his
photo capable cell phone, Blackberry, blue tooth ear piece, 3 Ghz
Lap Top . . . not to mention that brand new, evil looking 9mm Glock
he's just dying to wear out in public, laughing at the thought of
grown men pouring over index cards in an effort to put cases together
and crush crime.
In my humble opinion, all the hi-tech glitz and glitter in the world
will never replace dedication and diligence. Just as the Texas Ranger
of the 1860's armed with Colt's Single Action Army, or a Federal
Agent of the 1960's relying upon Colt's 1911 handgun technology,
could be every bit as effective as our hot shot hero with a Glock,
yesterday's investigators could still put together a perfectly good
case using index cards today.
Things that once worked well don't quit working just because there
is a newer way.
Suppose Jane Blow testified that she and your Client traveled to
his Malibu condo where they spent the next to last weekend in January
celebrating her birthday, and further testified that, during that
weekend, he admitted that he and her former boyfriend had visited
Tijuana, MX the prior weekend, where they picked up some cocaine
and child pornography. Being a federal criminal case (often referred
to as trial by ambush), the first time you heard this allegation
was as you sat at Counsel's table at trial.
How useful would it be to be able to identify the relevant dates
as the 22nd and 23rd of January, review your files, and discover
that her personal check cleared that weekend at FNB Miami, and an
examination of the check confirms that she was physically present,
as evidenced by her handwritten drivers license number and thumbprint,
when she cashed her check.
These days, with all our modern technology, that won't be all you
would expect to find. You can bet that her cell phone records will
show that she was making and receiving calls in her home area, rather
than roaming in Malibu, and her credit card records will show her
buying gas, and dining at restaurants in Miami. Yet none of it will
do you any good whatsoever if you have not done the work necessary
to know what you can prove, and how you can prove it.
You simply cannot believe the inconsistencies that go unchallenged
at trial because nobody had the command of the information that
they should have had in preparation.
Whether you are dealing with file boxes stuffed with documents,
or a 500 GB Lacie drive packed with half a Terabyte of information
that a team of investigators could not completely review in
a year, it is best to approach the job in a disciplined organized
In dealing with the tax scams promoted by Edward Bartolli
and Michael Vallone, such as the Aegis, Heritage America and
Athens Trust cases, as well as the Commonwealth Trust scam
perpetrated by John Crim, Wayne Rebuck and John Brownlee,
we are genuinely dealing with something in excess of ten million
pages of information - picture 4000 cardboard file boxes creating
a line a mile long if set end to end.
Now, we have CaseMap, and it is to the index card system as the
new Porsche is to the Model A, a comparison I chose for a reason.
But for all it's technological advancement, the Porsche does the
exact same job, the exact same way, as the Model A did. If you understand
the concept behind the index card system, you should find CaseMap
to be intuitively easy to use.
Here are some examples of work-product that I produced with the
assistance of the Lexis CaseMap program, and the associated TimeMap
Although many of you know me personally, I should probably mention
that I have no financial interest in, CaseMap, TimeMap, Adobe Acrobat,
or any of the other software that I rely upon, and use on a daily
basis. If this particular article was useful to you in developing
your business, the effort was well worth my time.
Bill E. Branscum, Investigator