New technologies are transforming the way we handle our cases in myriad ways—not the least of which is the time- and cost-saving ability to file electronically with the courts. By the beginning of 2003, the continuously rising e-filing tide had reached 50,000 registered users.
The federal courts alone account for 22,000 users, who are filing 23 percent of the documents and docket entries in the federal system. As 2003 progresses, 17 U.S. district courts and 76 bankruptcy courts will be using the new Case Management/Electronic Case File (CM/ECF) system, a project of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. When you crunch the numbers, this means federal litigators are filing and posting 95 million docket entries in 4.3 million cases at a rate of 55,000 new e-cases per month.
Six U.S. district courts (NY-E, CA-N, DC, MO-W, OH-N and PA-E), plus the Court of International Trade, are actively using CM/ECF. Another 10 district courts (NY-S, CA-C, IL-N, MD, MI-W, NE, NY-S, TX-N, TX-S and WA-W) are in the process of implementing the system. Moreover, the bankruptcy court system is approaching the state of "totally wired," with 41 live courts and 35 courts in the process of implementation this year.
What's Happening on the State Level?
On the state side, the largest implementation is in Colorado, where the LexisNexis CourtLink e-filing system is in active use in all 65 county courts, plus probate and water courts throughout the state. (Guadalupe Sisneros, an associate in the Denver firm Moye Giles O'Keefe Vermeire Gorrell, LLP, reports that he is not just e-filing daily, but that he "lives and breathes e-filing.")
CourtLink counts more than 30,000 users among courts in California, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Ohio and Washington, with Delaware coming online in 2003. The company reports that lawyers are filing and serving 2 million pages per month. Many of the state e-file cases involve large groups of lawyers in mass or class actions related to asbestos, guns and securities. In addition, there are jurisdictions experimenting with their own e-filing systems in the business court in North Carolina and in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia and Las Vegas. There are additional pockets of big case activity in MDL cases handled by VeriLaw in Philadelphia (PhenFen) and Minneapolis (Baycol).
The Planning Proliferates
Another measure of activity is the number of court conferences where e-filing is a hot topic for court clerks, CIOs and the chairs of judicial technology committees who are planning infrastructure and case management systems to handle electronic court records and e-filing. Notably, the National Association for Court Management will host sessions on e-filing at its annual meeting, on July 13 to 19 in Washington, D.C., while the National Center for State Courts will cover e-filing, standards and electronic court records at it Eighth Court Technology Conference, on October 26 to 30 in Kansas City. The very active LegalXML /Oasis Court Filing Technical Committee will also conduct face-to-face meetings during these conferences to supplement its active work through the Organization for the Application of Structured Information Standards in testing the proposed Court Filing Standard Version 1.1 ( www.legalxml.org).
All of these developments lead to one conclusion. The e-filing tide is rising and you should make sure your litigators and staff are on board and learn the skills, such as image scanning and PDF usage, needed to stay afloat.
James I. Keane ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is a litigation technology consultant in JKeane.Law.Pro in North Potomac, MD. He is co-author and annual update editor of the West treatise Litigation Support Systems: An Attorney Guide, 2nd edition.