Every part of my tech-geek soul loves this.
According to a press release from our dear Judicial Council, mandatory e-filing may be in our near future for civil cases. Normally, the word "mandatory" makes us shiver, but this change could be one of the rare instances in which "California courts" and "efficient" actually belong in a sentence together.
Forget about the environmental impact of millions of fewer printed pages for a second, because who really cares about the environment? (Kidding. Seriously, having every case handled electronically would be huge for Mother Nature.) Imagine the convenience of not having to fill out one of those stupid Proof of Service forms ever again.
Wait, so when you sign POS-030, it says that you already deposited it in the mail, yet you're supposed to include a copy of the form with the documents to be served. Do you sign it, and commit perjury, or include an unsigned copy and sign a copy that you keep in your files. Why, oh why, California, do you make proof of service so dang confusing?
The proposal would require mandatory electronic filing and electronic service of civil case documents. No more postage stamps. No more POS-030 forms. No more waiting five extra days per the statute's snail mail time extension. No more dead trees because you have to print three copies, send them to the courthouse, have them endorsed, and then mail off a copy to opposing counsel.
Instead, file online and maybe click a button to "serve" the other party. Can't find a document that you sent the other party, or need the date it was filed? It's online. Probably in PDF format.
Also, after an initial setup cost, we'd guess that this will prove to be quite the relief for the court system's budget as well. With dozens of courthouses closed or Friday-furloughed, it could only help the remaining courts' operations to reduce foot traffic at the civil filing windows.
Of course, the convenience of such cloud-esque systems depends on their reliability and design. Rest assured, the state won't be diving in completely blind. They've been running a pilot program in Orange County for a while now. Had things gone awry, we'd imagine the statewide e-filing proposal wouldn't be happening.
Of course, not everyone is tech-savvy. For technophobic lawyers, if the Judicial Council proposal passes, you'll have to either hire a tech-savvy assistant, learn how to operate a keyboard and mouse, or request an exemption, the requirements of which are not yet clear.
For self-represented parties, the mandatory adjective will not apply, though the proposal's language indicates that they would be encouraged to participate voluntarily. The press release also states that "[t]o the extent feasible, courts and other entities would be encouraged to assist self-represented parties to electronically file and serve documents."
Whether that means court-provided facilitator's offices, nifty website tutorials, or an extra fee for paper filing remains to be seen.
The Judicial Council is set to discuss the e-filing proposal at its meeting Friday; a live audio webcast will be available on the California Courts' website.
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