Software selected by SCAO for statewide e-filing

By Roberta M. Gubbins
Legal News

In the not too distant future, those wishing to file documents with all Michigan courts will be able to do so via the Internet. E-filing is coming to Michigan Courts and ImageSoft is supplying it.

ImageSoft’s TrueFiling Electronic Filing Manager (EFM) was selected by the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) for a statewide e-filing initiative in Michigan. This decision means that a central e-filing platform will be available to all courts throughout the state including District, Circuit, Probate, Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

“Traditionally,” said Scott Bade, President of ImageSoft, “we sold general software technology, which allows users to scan and store paper electronically.”

ImageSoft’s high-speed scanners are used by 17 counties, in their courts and in other county departments. However, as technology moved on, some counties were looking at e-filing programs.

“The State realized that if every county had a different system, it would be horrible for attorneys,” said Bade, “so they issued an RFP (Request for Proposal) for an e-filing system and ImageSoft with its TrueFiling program won that.”

TrueFiling will begin with the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court and then move on to the other courts all of which can benefit from EFM technology. Courts are inherently easy to move to an electronic case file because most have been performing efficient “indexing” of their documents for many years.

Many of the benefits of e-filing are derived through improvements in processing, meaning that the more complex courts such as those handling domestic relations, criminal and complex civil cases will derive more benefit than a traffic court.

The electronic case file repository provides court workers and outside parties with an efficient consistent view of the case file on demand. Case files can be presented in different ways, depending on the user’s role. For example, caseworkers in the trial court may see a different file organizational structure than prosecutors. Any number of users can view electronic documents simultaneously.
“Each court gets to state their court policy,” said Dan Mayernik, Director of Product Development, “which can include which case types they are going to allow to e-file. If they want something in paper, such as a Personal Protection Order, it can be done. And, while statutory rates are fixed, some of the others can be specified—copies, for example.” 

Courts will typically achieve cost savings from electronic filing, such as:

• Improved user productivity

• Immediate, secure, multi-user access to case files

• Improved security and disaster recovery

• Improved audit ability and accountability

• Better customer service

• Better employee work environment, which improves retention and reduces recruiting costs and other work-related issues

• Space savings

• Copier and printer cost savings

There will also be advantages for lawyers when the TrueFiling is up and running.

“With TrueFiling,” said Bade, “the attorney has an account with the state, which can be used in any court on the system. The file is sitting in their account, but it will only stay there for a fixed period of time, then it will disappear from the attorney’s file. The Clerk is the system of record and they would have it in their system, but we could create a system of record for attorneys to store that file on our servers, cloud based.”

Another value to the attorney filer, explained Mayernik, is that they also have electronic service. With electronic service, the attorney can see who has opened the notice, when it was opened, and on what computer. There is a whole history of the service, which is not available when it is sent by mail.

Prosecutors, added Steve Gilsky, such as Ingham County Prosecutor’s office, which uses ImageSoft to store documents electronically, can send out discovery electronically. Attorneys can then download them onto their personal system.

Some courts will allow an individual to do a case search on their website. “It is possible to data mine at any time of day or night,” said Mayernik. Documents can be pulled up, purchased and downloaded.

According to the minutes of the SCAO Technology Implementation Committee of March 14, 2013, the E-filing portal plan will be implemented in three phases, beginning with identification of how data is exchanged and ending with the ability to integrate with other statewide systems.

The goal is to eventually allow for a single point of access, single statewide login, and a uniform authentication method.

Courts are complex environments with unique processing needs. They serve the interests of a number of stakeholders and must operate consistently and efficiently in order to be fair to all parties while maximizing scarce resources. A poorly run court has a widespread long-term negative effect on society. The use of technology will provide all stakeholders with benefits quickly and efficiently.

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