Maryland Court of Appeals and Electronic Filing

For the past several years, the Maryland Judiciary has been developing plans for a comprehensive electronic case management system for the District Court, the Circuit Courts, and the two appellate courts. That system will involve court records being filed, maintained, and accessible in electronic, rather than paper, form. The Judiciary has chosen Tyler Technologies, a leading provider of software solutions for the Court and Justice community, as its partner in this endeavor. The Judiciary and Tyler are in the process of designing how the software will operate in the courts and interface with justice partners, including the attorney community. The Court’s Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure is now in the preliminary stages of developing Rules to accommodate MDEC. It is anticipated that the system will be installed sequentially by county or groups of counties, starting in Anne Arundel County on or about September 30, 2013.

Five core issues of basic judicial policy and certain possible options regarding those issues have been identified, upon which the Court invites public comment. Comments may present other issues and suggest other options. All comments should be in writing and sent to Sandra F. Haines, Esq., Reporter to the Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, 2011-D, Commerce Park Drive, Annapolis, Maryland, 21401 on or before September 21, 2012.

The Court will hold a public meeting on October 18, 2012, at 2:00 p.m., to consider the timely written comments. Oral presentations will not be permitted except by invitation of the Court. Decisions reached by the Court will guide the Rules Committee in the further development of Rules necessary to implement MDEC.

The issues and some possible options identified by the Rules Committee are:

(1) To what extent should the electronic filing of documents be mandatory?

(a) With minor and well-defined exceptions, mandatory for all filers;

(b) Optional for all filers;

(c) Mandatory for attorneys and judicial personnel, optional for self-represented litigants;

(d) Optional for judges;

(e) To the extent practicable, mandatory for government agencies required by law or court order to file reports, records, or other documents in cases to which they are not parties;

(f) Electronic filing supplemented by a reduced number of paper copies in appellate courts.

(2) What should be the requirements for a filer’s signature on electronically filed documents?

(a) A typographical signature, such as “/s/” suffices for all filers and documents;

(b) The scanned or digital signature should appear on all documents;

(c) The scanned or digital signature should appear on documents required to be filed under oath or affirmation;

(d) A scanned or digital signature of the judge or judicial appointee should appear on orders and judgments.

(3) Will the electronic version of electronically filed documents be the official record of such documents?

(a) The electronic version is the official record;

(b) The electronic version is not the official record;

(c) Written transcripts should continue to be required of electronically recorded proceedings in open court.

(4) What access should be allowed to the electronic record? [Editor’s note: this will be a big deal.]

(a) Subject to a protective order, parties and attorneys of record should have full access, including remote access, to all case records in cases to which they are parties or attorneys of record;

(b) Judges, judicial appointees, and judicial personnel should have full access, including remote access, to all case records when such access is necessary to perform their official duties;

(c) The public should have free access to all unshielded case records, but only from public access terminals in the clerk’s office or at other specified locations;

(d) The public should continue to have free remote access provided to the unshielded names of litigants and docket entries;

(e) The public should have remote access to all unshielded case records by subscription, for which a fee would be charged.

(5) What kinds of fees, if any, should be charged for (i) the electronic filing of documents; (ii) the filing of paper documents; (iii) remote access to electronic records; or (iv) general operation and maintenance of the MDEC system?

That was from the Court of Appeals… back to me… Change is scary for everyone, particularly on something as big a deal as getting an appellate brief filed. But I think this would be a wonderful thing if the court could implement it without too many bumps.