Courts Go Digital, Reap Rewards
by Marlene Martineau, Project Manager, Justice Solutions, Xerox
In a world of smartphones, email and eBooks our interaction with technology and digital information is constantly expanding. Consumer applications get the most press, but the evolution of computer-based solutions has also changed how government operate behind the scenes. E-filing, for example, makes a huge difference in how documents are submitted to the courts, changing the work day world of court employees, attorneys, litigants and others. Tennessee’s Circuit and Chancery Courts of Shelby County are a great example of a court system reaping the benefits of digital information after transitioning to an e-filing system.
Prior to going digital, the Court office was like a scene at a popular diner during the breakfast rush, only instead of eggs and waffles, people were shuffling legal forms and court documents. Nine employees were behind a counter assisting the public in lines that were often several people deep. Frequently attorneys would show-up at 4:30 p.m. with three to four lawsuits to file, needing employees to work overtime. This process was expensive for the County, difficult for employees and troublesome for attorneys.
Shelby County turned to Xerox in 2011 to help reduce their dependence on paper files. A short six months after the project began, e-filing was a reality. The new system allows registered attorneys (and pro-se litigants) to file and update all cases electronically and engage with the Courts at their convenience. If necessary, they can work until midnight to complete a filing, instead of hurrying to the courthouse to meet a 4:30 p.m. deadline. It also means all the documents in the files can be accessed at any time, and multiple people can access related documents on a case at the same time – from anywhere. You can read more about Shelby County’s operations and how they maximized their chances of success with e-filing in this case study.
In three short years, the Court has dramatically decreased their management of paper with 44 percent of all new cases filed electronically. They have also received very positive responses to the change from employees and attorneys, and the County is saving money because overtime has been greatly reduced. The inefficiencies and expense of filing hardcopy court documents are a thing of the past.