Monday, August 24, 2015

What's the Point of E-Filing if No One Uses It?

From the pages of the New York Post today comes another story about the inefficiencies of the legal industry and the continued use of paper when electronic options are available. In this case, it is the city law department that is claiming that the use of electronic filing in cases is not "compatible" with the organizational structure of the law division. The result is that the city has used a process server and paid $1.238 million over the past five years.

Also used in their defense, the law department is attempting to shift part of the blame back on the court system and the requirements that some (not all) judges have that a "working copy" also be filed with the Court, even in electronic filing cases. The article concludes that at some point, the state or administrative judge will force them to "get with the times", but questions why they can't be proactive on this issue.

The Federal Courts began e-filing in 2001, beginning in bankruptcy courts and then rolling the system out to the district courts and the appeals courts. With that system, it is easy to manage your cases and have access to your documents electronically.  New York has been slowly expanding its e-filing system and cases, but still retains certain types of cases that are not able to be e-filed. Instead of a system wide implementation, the e-filing is different from county to county as to what cases are e-filed and what their individual procedures are. This can cause a bit of a headache when you are e-filing to a case in a county for the first time and have to check to see their individual policies.

From their end, the judges I have spoken to about e-filing all have the same complaint: the infrastructure they are provided with is not able to give them the support they need to go to a fully electronic docket of cases.

But regardless of the hassle, the e-filing system does speed up the litigation process by allowing the fast filing and transmission of documents to the Court and opposing counsel. Opting out of the system, as the law department apparently does, hinders the ability for lawyers and litigants to take advantage of the advancing technologies. Rather than show up with suitcases full of documents, you can show up with a tablet or computer and be able to efficiently present your case and represent your client.

Hopefully it is only a matter of time until the Courts fully implement e-filing for all cases.

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