LOS ANGELES (CN) – Los Angeles County Superior Court on Thursday introduced a new electronic filing system for probate cases, and expects to roll out a similar system for civil lawsuits next year.
At a public meeting at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown LA, officials said they will launch the e-filing system on June 5. The public can then file probate documents electronically through 21 different vendors, or electronic filing service providers.
“You have the ability to do it 24/7,” probate Judge David Cowan told an audience at a meeting on the second floor of the courthouse. “This is no longer going to be the old world, rushing to have your messenger service come down and make sure the doors are still open at 4:30.”
The new e-filing software replaces the court’s aging probate case management system. Tyler Technologies, a company that provides software to the public sector, is managing the electronic filing system and is an intermediary between the vendors and the court. Sixteen courts in California currently use a similar system.
The only courthouse that will continue to accept probate documents in person is the Antelope Valley courthouse in Lancaster, 70 miles north of downtown Los Angeles.
Court Clerk Sherri Carter said that unlike the federal e-filing system, state court employees review and process the filings before they appear on the court’s docket.
“In the state’s system, when you file them you submit them and they’re received by the court. You’ll get a notice when they’re received but they are not automatically filed like in the federal system,” Carter said. “They go into an electronic inbox so that the clerk’s office will review them, and when they’re filed you’ll get notice of their filing or if they’re returned to you, you’ll get a notice of what the problems are.”
Carter confirmed that in some cases it might be two days or more before a filing is available to the public. Federal court does not withhold new filings while they’re processed.
“In the federal court, every document that’s filed is available online once it’s uploaded,” Carter said.
Confirmation to the filer of receipt and submission to the court’s probate system is immediate. After the clerk’s office reviews, processes and accepts the new filing, then an electronic copy of the processed filing is sent to the filer. It takes the clerk’s office between two hours and two days to process the new filings.
The court’s chief information officer Snorri Ogata said the court will not profit from the new system and passes on any costs to the vendors.
After the meeting, Ogata said that it might take longer for the court to process a filing if it received toward the end of day or after business hours. He noted that the court’s system for unlimited civil filings would be managed by Journal Technologies, a case management software company owned by the publisher Daily Journal Corporation.
In 2016, the California-based news service successfully challenged in federal court the Ventura county clerk for denying timely access to new lawsuits. U.S. District Judge S. James Otero in the Central District of California found that a First Amendment right of access attaches when the clerk receives a new filing, and he enjoined Ventura Clerk Michael Planet from withholding new unlimited civil actions while his office processes them.
Ogata said that he was aware of the litigation and Otero’s ruling, noting that it would apply to the general civil e-filing system managed by Journal Technologies.
“We will comply with it from day one,” Ogata said.
The court says it expects to roll out e-filing for family law, limited civil, unlimited civil and complex civil cases in the summer of 2018.