Before entering the courtroom, counsel relies on a court’s technology to electronically file and serve documents and obtain court records. Once inside the courtroom, counsel, judges, and court staff rely on the court’s technology when attending and participating in proceedings, such as hearings, trials, conferences, and other events, that are increasingly held remotely. Counsel must also leverage the court’s infrastructure — such as document storage and transfer — to use exhibits and other materials during a proceeding.
Does the court have compatible systems for electronic filing and case record management?
Electronic filing, while convenient, creates an element of uncertainty until counsel can identify a filing as accepted on the court docket, an uncertainty complicated by the risk of a technical issue with a submission. Counsel must be able to promptly determine from the court docket whether the court processed an electronic submission, or if not, they must be able to refile if necessary. Any delay in making this determination creates a risk that counsel misses a filing deadline.
Judges must also be able to access directly all electronically filed documents. Absent this access, judges run the risk of overlooking a key document or exhibit filed by counsel.
As a result, courts must use a comprehensive system that combines the convenience of electronic filing with real-time access to the court’s records. A court should use a single case management and electronic filing system; or, if that is unavailable, courts should integrate their existing electronic filing and court records systems. Otherwise, the risks of an error exist, and counsel may opt to file in paper format (unless mandatory) to minimize potential filing issues.
Can counsel digitally submit materials in any format?
Court electronic filing systems typically require that counsel use PDF format to electronically file materials and to limit file sizes. However, PDF format is not always available for digital evidence because of the size or format of the material involved. For example, electronic filing systems often do not accept photographs, emails, text messages, and audio or video recordings in original format.
Counsel must determine in advance the best way and timing for electronically submitting materials to ensure proper consideration by the court. This requires counsel to inquire whether they can file materials using a thumb drive, CD, shared cloud drive, or other means. Counsel must also determine whether the court has compatible software or applications to access materials using counsel’s preferred file format and, if appropriate, to copy and edit materials. In turn, courts should have the latest software and applications to review, access, and use electronic submissions.
By Brandon Moss
Reuters – February 16, 2022