Why California Fell Behind on E-Filing
By Wayne Nitti
Given California’s status as the world’s sixth-largest economy, and considering that it’s home to global technology leaders such as Adobe, Alphabet, and Apple, you might think that the state’s court system would be out front in adopting digital tools like electronic filing and online case management. When it comes to modernizing its judicial system, however, the nation’s most populous state lags behind many others. Among California’s county-specific trial courts, less than half offer e-filing.
By contrast, Texas—the second-biggest state in the US—successfully implemented a statewide civil filing system in 2015. In fourth-ranked Florida, e-filing in civil cases has been mandatory since 2013. So how is it that California has fallen behind where smaller states, including Alabama, Colorado, and Delaware (which launched the first-ever electronic court initiative in 1991) have advanced?
Back in 2001, the Golden State’s Judicial Branch proposed what might have been the California Case Management System. An ambitious, $260 million project, the so-called CCMS would have replaced 70-odd legacy systems operating in courthouses across the state with a single, unified platform. Although the project’s cost estimate ballooned to $1.9 billion by 2010, it might have survived were it not for the financial crisis of 2008-2009. In 2012, citing budget cuts of more than $650 million, and attendant courtroom closures, reduced hours, and employee layoffs, California’s Judicial Council convened a special session and announced it was abandoning the project.
There is a bright spot in the California court system’s otherwise bleak transition into the electronic era: The Judicial Council decided it would continue supporting the operation and maintenance of software deployed under the initiative for which the state had paid $333 million. Although taxpayers might question the value of that investment, it nonetheless enabled California to keep software up-and-running in seven key trial courts. In the seven years since the Judicial Council backed away from the CCMS, the number of California counties offering e-filing has gradually expanded, and in its Strategic Plan for Technology 2019-2022, the California Judicial Branch envisions increased funding to achieve a goal of “implementing comprehensive digital services.” E-filing is now mandatory in numerous California counties, and I’m pleased to announce that on June 1st, Case Anywhere will begin offering its transactional e-filing in 18 new jurisdictions.
While e-filing undoubtedly brings efficiency to the litigation process, it is only one piece in a larger legal technology puzzle. By combining e-filing with online file cabinets for pleadings and discovery, document depositories and transcript libraries, as well as advanced tools for court communication and scheduling, Case Anywhere’s suite of services achieve savings in time and money that go far beyond those realized in simply moving from paper filing to electronic submissions. Let us bring not only e-filing—but a comprehensive case management platform—to your next case. Contact us to get online today.