An e-filing pilot for civil cases in Hennepin County district court could be up and running by August 30, 2010 with help from the bar. Prompted by shrinking budget allotments in Minnesota’s downturn economy, the courts are determined to become more efficient and cost effective through the use of technology.
The civil division plans to pilot e-filing of new attorney-initiated major civil cases. Officially known as the Civil Electronic Filing Pilot Project, it will include voluntary participation from a variety of law firms to develop the right processes as a model for the rest of the state, eventually including e-filing for all case types by all types of parties. Initially, the pilot will start with only new attorney-initiated cases in the general civil area. It will include all case documents such as court notices, orders and judgments, and service/collection of any required filing fees. The pilot will not include probate, mental health, conciliation, housing or family court cases or existing civil cases.
To start the project, a work group researched seven e-filing providers and looked at their compatibility with the court case management system. The work group was impressed by the users’ unanimous positive reaction. Judges Robert Blaeser and Pete Cahill addressed the HCBA on March 8 to search for law firms to initially pilot the program. The private bar partners are needed to help develop and implement processes as a model for the rest of the state, eventually including e-filing for all case types by all types of parties. During the pilot, e-filing will be for test cases only, but with anticipation that it will be mandatory for all civil cases sometime in the future.
The criteria for the pilot includes a firm with many and/or complex civil cases; a medium sized firm that does it all; a small firm that handles civil litigation; and a firm with high volume types of cases, such as collections. Ideally, volunteers will include two or three representatives from two to three firms. A work group of judges, court managers, attorneys and staff will meet on a regular basis throughout the phase to receive training and to discuss any issues or concerns.
E-filing users said it is efficient, saves postage and paper expense, provides staff time to work on higher order tasks (instead of standing at the copy machine 2-3 hours per day), and is easy to learn (takes only 45 minutes), and immediately saves on-site file storage space.
Over the next several months, steps include:
Negotiate contract with vendor
Identify rule changes and prepare orders adopting electronic filing rules
Determine business model (software licensing, fee per transaction, cost recovery)
Identify architectural infrastructure required to support document image storage
Determine if any modifications to Case Management System are required
Select payment methods (examples include credit card, invoice, debit account)
Assemble e-filing advisory group
For future updates on the e-filing pilot in civil cases, individuals can access the Fourth Judicial District Web site at www.mncourts.gov/district/4.