Monday, November 12, 2007

Electronic filing for family law cases?

The Divorce Journal has an article on Miami, Florida going to a paperless filing system for its family court system. See Paperless Family Courts: The Pluses And The Perils.

Indiana courts have nothing like this system in place. Some courts allow for fax filing but that is not a paperless system.

My experience with a paperless system comes from bankruptcy and other federal work. I have not always liked it but that might be my own prejudices. I never used Internet Explorer and for the past few years I have used Mozilla's Firefox. The federal system finally became compatible with Firefox, but still does not like allow for its system to be opened in more than one tab. I work with lots of tabs open. I guess that makes me a bit of a computer geek but so be it! The point here is that the system must be open to all users and that means more than Microsoft's Internet Exploder.

Another point I see from my local experience is how many people in my area remain offline and of those that are online are not very fluent in their use of the Internet. I would say the majority of my family law clients are not on the Internet.

After reading the Divorce Law Journal, The Indiana Law Blog reported on The Appellate E-Filing Project:

"Many readers will recall this ILB entry from Oct. 15, titled 'Supreme Court withdraws amendment to Appellate Rule 43(K) mandating electronic filing of briefs effective Jan. 1, 2008.' As noted in the entry, the Court first posted, and then later withdrew an amendment to the rule that would have required that all appellate document filings include an electronic/digital copy."

I am not sure whether to read this as Indiana lags Miami, Florida (which is my first thought) or something more. While the ILB article is not about family court filings, I do suggest reading it with the original post. Both project share large technical problems similar to what I touched on about the federal courts.

In the end, we will have electronic filing in state court. Moving from paper to digital will cause major pains in the lower back but the costs savings are apparent in nothing else if not storage space of paper files. What I would not like to see is a purely digital system - too many people who are indigent must rely upon paper. Besides, it will take a long time for the judges to adjust to a digital system. One local judge gladly admits he has no idea of how to use a computer. (On the the other hand, a Delaware County judge has a computer on his bench and can rundown case law as quickly as it is cited).

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