I don’t normally write about mechanical and procedural issues of the legal system because most people have no interest in reading about them. However, electronic filing of court documents is something that should have a substantial impact on the Oklahoma judicial system. Eletronic filing means that documents are filed digitally, usually using PDF, with no paper and no one traveling to the courthouse. Electronic filing also probably means that the public will have online access to all documents filed in a court case, like one has in federal court now.
Federal Courts have required that documents be filed electronically since 2003. Some documents in some cases in some counties are available for Oklahoma state court cases. While the Oklahoma state court system has wanted to go the direction of the federal courts for many years, a number of factors including lack of resources has held up any progress. In Oklahoma 77 county courts, paper still rules. This might be changing though:
Last week the Oklahoma Supreme Court annouced its “OKLAHOMA RULES FOR E-FILING IN SELECTED PILOT COURTS”. You can see the Supreme Court’s opinion and the rules here or take a look at the rules below this post.
The rules are necessary so the courts know how to handle electronic filing and it done uniformly throughout all 77 counties. It looks as if the Court will be rolling out test programs in several county courts soon. This is a good sign since the tests are necessary before the Oklahoma Supreme Court allows at least some of the larger counties to host electronic filing (or participate in the system). The stated goal is to bring all 77 county courts and the appellate courts under one, uninfied, searchable electronic system.
Lest you think the only benefit of electronic filing is me not having to leave my office chair, I can think of several others:
1. A huge saving on paper;
2. Less stress on an already overburdened court system; and
3. Greater transparency through online access to court files, for the public.
The rules and pilot program are excellent signs of progress.