By: Tiffany S. Franc, Esquire email@example.com
Beginning Spring 2014 Maryland will be testing an electronic filing system in Anne Arundel County. This will mean mandatory e-filing for all attorneys and judicial staff, and paper filing for the public, but the Clerk’s office will have a “scan and destroy” policy so that once paper is filed in person, it is immediately scanned and destroyed.
The current e-filing system proposal is one which connects all four levels of the court system and makes e-filing uniform throughout. The cost during the pilot will be free, but there will be yet-determined fees once the pilot is rolled out state-wide. Parties will be able to remotely access, 24/7, all documents associated with their cases. Non-parties will be able to view documents from terminals at courthouses, and everyone will still have access to the current Case Judiciary Search system.
The new e-filing system will provide what the Court hopes to be a heightened level of public safety, providing immediate warrants and orders of protection between the Court and the Sheriff’s office. It will also provide a stream-lined litigation process in many ways, one of them being e-service, where a party to a case will be able to track and view when an opposing party opens a pleading.
A great undertaking of the Clerk’s office will be the ‘back scanning’ process. Depending on the age of a case and the amount of paper in the file, the Clerk’s office will be tasked with scanning papers from older files to make them electronic. The focus will be on “older” files within which there is current or on-going litigation. Decisions on back scanning will be on a case-by-case basis.
Much of the opposition to judicial e-filing systems surround technology requirements and restrictions, and small or solo firms fear it being cost prohibitive just to utilize the system. The current Maryland system will have a 300 page filing restriction, more than enough for typical cases and more than the current Federal system allows. Technology wise no scanner is needed, the system will accept pdf, tif, word and word perfect formatted documents without conversion required.
Every law firm will need to have a designated (or multiple) e-filing administrator(s) which are tasked with approving each new user of the system under the firms account. Each attorney will also be able to designate someone who can sign documents on their behalf electronically, see Rule 20-108. Most importantly, attorney’s registration numbers for the e-filing system will be their unique Client Protection Fund number so every attorney should know and retain this number for registration purposes.
Besides the public safety benefits, an e-filing system has the potential to increase efficiency and effectiveness of the judiciary. The judiciary will also save money on the high cost to store, retrieve and handle paper files. Litigants will no longer experience the week long delays in docketing matters. Most importantly, it will allow the judiciary to make more effective use of its space, when Clark County, Nevada implemented e-filing they freed up enough space to build four new courtrooms. It will be exciting to see what e-filing enables Maryland’s judiciary to do.
 The pilot will be live in AA Co. for 6 months before moving on to a state-wide roll out gradually from 2014-2017.
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