The Transition to eFiling
by Brian L. Shepard
The Office of State Courts Administrator (OSCA) reports that 26 new counties will be implementing electronic filing, or eFiling, this year. While the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals have been eFiling for just over two years and about a year, respectively, eFiling at the Circuit court level will be fairly new to the vast majority of us who do most of our work there. The evolution to eFiling should be especially easy to young lawyers, who are statistically more proficient with technology. However, on the other hand, it can seem very daunting to change the way we have learned to do things, especially given that we were just starting to figure out how to do them in the first place.
As my firm practices in Springfield, we just recently had to make the change. Greene County went to electronic filing on April 1st of this year and so far the transition has been relatively smooth. The relative ease of the process is certainly a credit to the hard work of OSCA and their developers. This is not to say the process is without its difficulties and differences. For those of you not already eFiling your cases, you can check to see when your county is expected to go to eFiling, get free training opportunities, and even CLE.
The biggest hang up with the new system I’ve seen is determining when a document should be submitted as an attachment to one document or as a separate document altogether. For example, when filing a motion it seems obvious that an exhibit to the motion should be an attachment to the motion and not submitted as a separate document. On the other hand, say you are filing a motion with a separate notice of hearing. We, so far, have not gotten a uniform answer as to whether the notice of hearing is an attachment to the motion, or a separate document submission. This is easily remedied by a call to the clerk’s office, to see what they prefer, but some more guidance by OSCA on specific scenarios would be appreciated.
This is not, of course, a major issue. However, nobody wants to do something wrong and risk a rejected submission, especially if you are under a rule imposed deadline. These minor snags aside, at the end of the day it seems everyone, attorneys and courts alike, are working with each other to learn as they go. Do yourself a favor and don’t be afraid to call the clerk’s office where you are to be eFiling. They are likely just as uncertain about some of the same things as you are and will work with you to get it right.
Ultimately, it seems, eFiling will prove to be a good thing. It will reduce the need for storage space, increase the efficiency of court staff, and decrease paper use. All of these will likely prove to be good for the “bottom line,” of both Missouri courts and our planet.