Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Home / Legal News / Committee pushes for statewide e-filing

Committee pushes for statewide e-filing

The state’s chief judges committee has filed a petition to mandate e-filing in all circuit court cases.

The state’s Supreme Court rules petition was filed Friday but has been in the works for some time. It was circulated among State Bar committees in September, and Fond du Lac County Circuit Judge Robert Wirtz, who headed a subcommittee to study e-filing, said there were only minor changes since then.

The idea behind the petition is to force compliance with a voluntary rule that was passed in 2008. According to a report released in August by the subcommittee, only 25 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties use some sort of e-filing, and between 2009 and 2013, less than 1 percent of all small claims, civil and family cases were filed electronically.

“In order for it to be effective and be useful, they really need to reach critical mass with enough [counties] doing it,” Wirtz said.

The proposal, if the court accepts it, would expand a rule the justices approved in 2008. According to the proposal, implementing mandatory e-filing would start in January 2016 and last through December 2018. Training for court officials would be done through the Consolidated Court Automation Program, or CCAP, and online instructions and phone support would be available for those who file.

The chief judge’s committee hopes the state Supreme Court will hold a public hearing for the proposal in spring.

Wirtz said that e-filing cases will, in the long run, make it easier for all the actors in the court system. For a judge, that could mean he or she can retrieve a file on his or her computer and read it.

Managing the files would generally be easier, he said, though some counties that lag behind technologically, such as not having a wireless Internet connection, may need to upgrade IT systems to see all of the benefits.

“I think there is, as with any change, a certain amount of reticence and apprehension about the work that’s going into it and the learning curve,” Wirtz said. “[But] once it gets going, the efficiencies are there.”

And even though the proposal has not yet been heard by the justices, the courts are already planning for mandatory e-filing and its implementation.

The court’s budget request includes $2.1 million to pay for eight staffers to help implement e-filing statewide. Consolidated Court Automation Programs spokeswoman Jean Bousquet said the request was made by the Director of State Courts’ office, which would help implement the program.

Both Wirtz and Bousquet would not say whether they think the request will be approved by the Legislature when it convenes in January. Bousquet added, though, that those staffers could be useful to help with e-filing pilot programs across the state if the Supreme Court does not approve it.

While the proposal is not all-encompassing — for example, pro se litigants who file fewer than 10 cases would not have to comply — proponents say it would be a big step to drastically reduce paper at the courthouses and storage facilities, and the problems associated with those files.

About Eric Heisig

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *