Courts are increasingly adopting electronic document management systems and e-filing policies for faster case resolution.
The Bristol Herald Courier reported that the Virginia Senate committee is currently considering a bill for electronic case filing by the Virginia House of Representatives. If passed, this bill would enable clerks with electronic filing systems to charge citizens filing paper documentation a $2 fee, which would then fund maintenance of the digital system.
Jack Kennedy, Wise County Circuit Court clerk, supports these initiatives. His office has already begun to scan and digitize documents from 1856 onward, and he expects that all files through 2003 will be electronically available by this summer. Representative Terry Kilgore, who is sponsoring the bill, told the news source that his objective is for the Virginia court system to be completely paperless, reducing the need for paper resources and enhancing productivity.
“It will further interoperability,” he explained. “A paper file is handled by one person at a time. An electronic file can be handled by multiple people simultaneously. It’s never lost or destroyed.”
Efficient and secure file exchange
The county’s electronic documents are not only stored on a server in Wise, but also backed up on a server in Norton, which increases disaster recovery capabilities. Kennedy explained that in the case of a natural disaster, the server could be up and running again within a matter of hours. Additionally, he told the newspaper that the accessibility of the electronic system, which is also available to attorneys and law enforcement officials, allows clerks to easily check for new filings.
“It keeps the clerk’s office open 24/7,” he said. “And if a litigant in Florida needs a copy of a document, we could send it to them. If the [FBI] needs something, we can instantly send a file.”
Other circuit courts around the nation are taking similar measures, including several in Northwest Arkansas. NWA Online reported that within a year or two, these courts expect to mandate e-filing of legal documents state-wide. This initiative is a combined effort between the Arkansas Administrative Office of the courts and local judicial districts, and will eventually provide a case management system available on Little Rock servers. The Administrative Office will be responsible for utilizing conversion services to digitize existing documentation as well as annual backup and recovery strategies.
As courts look to refine the filing process for state officials, an electronic management and filing system can simplify procedures, enabling quicker decisions and improved workflow at a lower cost.
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