E-Filing Challenge Running Out of Steam

     ATLANTA (CN) – A class action claim that Fulton County, Ga. and Reed Elsevier conspired to create an unconstitutional, mandatory e-filing system appears to be on its last legs.
     Attorney Steven J. Newton has taken his case to the Court of Appeals for the State of Georgia after a string of rulings against his remaining client.
     Several class actions challenged the mandatory e-filing. Many plaintiffs dropped out during the more than two years of litigation, leaving the Best Jewelry Manufacturing Co. as the lone class representative.
     It claims challenges the mandatory e-filings in Fulton County State and Superior Courts, filed through Reed Elsevier’s LexisNexis File & Serve system.
     Such filings can cost up to $11 apiece when electronic filing is mandated by orders from Fulton County State and Superior Courts and authorized by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners.
     In Fulton County State Court, cases with damage claims of more than $50,000 and cases in which a dollar amount has been not been specified must be electronically filed.
     Also subject to mandatory e-filing are cases involving asbestos, Fen-Phen, mercury and lead, silicosis, welding rod, medical malpractice, legal malpractice, torts, personal injury cases and civil cases with four or more parties.
     The scope of cases that must be electronically filed in Fulton County Superior is less broad, covering only asbestos, Fen-Phen and silicosis.
     According to Fulton County’s appellate brief , on Dec. 18, 2012, the trial court entered an order granting its motion to strike and Lexis’ motion to dismiss, and denied plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration.
     The trial court also ruled that Fulton County is entitled to sovereign immunity and granted Fulton County’s motion for summary judgment on the pleadings, according to the county.
     In addition, the trial court ruled that O.C.G.A. 15-6-77 does not apply to e-filings. Best Jewelry claimed that e-filing fees are higher than the filing fee schedule described in the statute. But the county said the filing fee schedule applies only to fees described in the statute, and that e-filing fees are not included.
     The trial court ruled that e-filing fees are separate from the mandated fees clerks charge litigants, that defendants do not share e-filing fees and that e-filing fees are permissible, according to the briefs in the case.
     The trial court also ruled that Fulton County does not collect any of the filing fees. Finally, Fulton County rebutted plaintiff’s allegations that there has been no final judgment, because “the order granting judgment on the pleadings only disposed of plaintiffs’ damage claims.”
     Fulton County claimed that “plaintiff has failed to allege any new facts that would lead to a different ruling on a subsequent motion for judgment on the pleadings.”
     Lexis performed according to its contract with Fulton County and as a result is entitled to the protection of the county immunity, according to the company’s appellate brief. It claims that the plaintiff failed to prove Lexis’ contract with Fulton County was part of a conspiracy. As a result of its acquired immunity, it says, the trial court’s decision to grant Lexis’ motion to dismiss the case should be the final rendering in this case.
     The Court of Appeals scheduled oral arguments for July 17.
     Fulton County is represented by Larry W. Ramsey Jr., Kaye Woodard Burwell and Kristen B. Williams of the Office of the Fulton County Attorney.
     Reed Elsevier is represented by J. Allen Maines and Leland H. Kynes of Holland & Knight.

%d bloggers like this: