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Friday, January 27, 2017

Ind. Courts - "Allen County courts going paperless Feb. 6"

The subhead to this good Jan. 21st story in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, reported by Ron Shawgo, is "29 counties online as part of state effort; public access unclear." Some quotes from the long story [ILB emphasis]:

A seismic shift is coming in the way work is done at the Allen County Courthouse.

Electronic filing, the computerized way to record documents without setting foot in a courthouse, is arriving Feb. 6 as part of a statewide effort to go paperless. Twenty-nine counties are already online.

“It’s really been a foundational rethinking of how the courts work in Indiana,” said John McGauley, Allen Superior Court executive.

Like filing tax returns electronically, court e-filing will allow legal documents to be submitted from distant computers, saving law firms time and money and easing the workload for courthouse staff. Remote access to those online documents for the general public is yet to be determined.

It has been a steep learning curve in Allen County. The way paper has moved through the courthouse for decades is not the way it will move electronically, McGauley said.

Aside from new cables, monitors and software, part of the process requires court personnel to scan old documents into the new electronic system. Lawyers are also learning the process, and the Allen County Bar Association plans a Feb. 3 seminar for them, said Gina Zimmerman, bar executive director.

In Allen County, e-filing will be voluntary for attorneys beginning Feb. 6 and mandatory on April 7.

More from the story:
“We will no longer lose any filings or files, which has long-plagued paper court systems all over the country,” Allen Superior Court Judge Craig Bobay said. “But once those documents are in the system, we know where to locate them.”

While the public will be able to e-file documents if, say, they are defending themselves in a legal matter, the system will not allow access to detailed records. The state court system is still grappling with how to handle sensitive records, such as divorce decrees, that could pose a risk or an embarrassment to children if easily accessed online, Bobay said.

That information is public now, he added, “but you have to come down to the courthouse and know to look up that file, and you have to spend the time to read through all that. I think they call it something like practical obscurity.”

“Presently it’s a case management system, not a case records system,” Bobay said of the new e-filing setup. “And it’s my hope that eventually it becomes both.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 27, 2017 10:31 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts