Legal Learning: Lake County court is eFiling pioneer
From James H. Manahan, J.D.
Out of 87 counties in Minnesota, eleven have started a 21st century experiment. Two of these eleven are Lake and Cook Counties (known as “The Shore”). Our court is a pioneer in the use of eFiling.
In civil and family cases, no longer can attorneys simply mail their lawsuits, affidavits, and briefs to the judge or the court administrator. Those papers must be put into PDF format, served by computer on the other parties’ attorneys, and then filed by computer with the court. Paper no longer exists in Lake and Cook Counties for these cases.
In addition to mandatory eFiling in civil and family cases, attorneys can voluntarily eFile in adoption, criminal, probate, and juvenile cases in Lake and Cook Counties.
And after all the bugs have been worked out, electronic filing will be mandatory in all 87 counties. The vision announced by the Supreme Court is that “Minnesota courts will operate in an electronic information environment . . . . All cases will be eFiled or submitted on paper and converted to electronic images.” The goals are to “increase productivity and reduce operational costs”, “build a sound and secure technical infrastructure”, and “facilitate culture change from paper processes to electronic court processes.” The benefits, according to the Supreme Court, are that litigants will be able to file case documents without going to the courthouse; judges and litigants “will be able to view and work with . . . documents even when someone else is viewing the case file”; and court records not considered confidential will be viewable anywhere in the state through the Judicial Branch Website.
At present, the mandatory eFiling requirements for “The Shore” courts do not apply to probate, mental health, adoption, child protection, conciliation court, juvenile, or criminal cases. Also, they don’t apply to self-represented (pro se) litigants.
It should be noted that some documents can be filed as “confidential”, such as medical records, social security numbers, and financial account numbers, so they will not be available for public inspection.
For more information, go to www.mncourts.gov/efile
James H. Manahan is a Harvard Law School graduate and was named one of Minnesota’s Top Ten Attorneys. He now handles family law, wills, and probate in and around Lake County, and does mediation everywhere. The opinions expressed in this column are those of its author and are not to be attributed to his employer.