4 Things You Didn’t Know About e-Filing


Last month I shared my experience at the NCSC Industry Summit.  One of the major changes I’ve witnessed with the courts over the last ten years is the transition to e-filing.  Whether limited to select case types, mandatory, or optional – e-filing is transforming the courts. E-filing vendors continue to enhance the services they provide to streamline the process for filers and courts. I thought it would be fun to share a little history on the advent of e-filing and things that people may not know.


  1. The federal courts were the first to implement e-filing roughly 20 years ago.  CM/ECF (Case Management / Electronic Case Files) began in 1996. One of the initial guinea pigs was the Northern District of Ohio.  Dennis Rose, a litigator from Cleveland helped to develop the rules said, “initial guidelines for electronic filing were forgiving, to assuage lawyers’ concerns that a judge might reprimand them if an electronic submission got lost and a filing was delayed.” The Western District of Missouri, Eastern District of New York and District of Oregon also participated in pilot programs in 1997.
  2. National roll out of e-filing for the federal courts began with the bankruptcy courts in 2001 followed by the appellate courts in 2004.
  3. The internet and e-filing put the brakes on bike couriers in big cities. In the early 2000’s, top “document clerks” for Wheels of Justice in San Francisco made $50,000 per year.  By 2008, Wheels of Justice had reduced their full-time document clerk staff by 50 percent. The mountains of paperwork generated by trial lawyers, once the cash cow of the bike messengers, had all but stopped with the advent of e-filing.  You’ll still see bike couriers in major cities like San Francisco and New York, but their cargo has changed.  UberEats delivers lunchtime meals and UberRush is a courier service app for businesses and consumers.
  4. Mandatory…not optional. Implementing a new e-filing system is a major expense and state courts need to project efficiencies or saving to support costs.  Courts can’t afford for lawyers not to use the system and therefore need to make mandatory e-filing the norm.


While e-filing in the federal courts is fairly uniform, the same cannot be said in state court systems. E-filing is advancing at different rates in different regions and varies from state-to-state because different proprietary systems are in place. The regional variations make it difficult to get a sense for the status of e-filing in all state courts.  Here is a link to NCSC and a state court e-filing status update from January 2016.

E-Filing service providers can help attorneys manage the patchwork of systems and rules for individual courts. Most provide status updates 24/7 without having to wait for return phone calls or emails. Service providers are also looking at for ways to use OCR to capture and/or redact information at the time of filing.

about the author: troy burke

With 30 years of experience providing clients with stellar service and strategic solutions for growth and development, Troy is committed to ensuring his customers receive the highest quality solution, training and support with every implementation. He frequently speaks on the topic of redaction and is actively involved with National Association of Court Management, Property Records Industry Association and several other government organizations.