ATLANTA (CN) – Attorneys representing LexisNexis moved to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the electronic filing system in Fulton County on the grounds of state immunity. But the lawyer attacking the publishing giant’s cozy deal said the court is acting well outside its job duties in mandating electronic filing and thus “not entitled to a defense of qualified immunity.”
In a federal class action filed in June, LexisNexis Courtlink Inc., a division of Reed Elsevier, along with Fulton County State and Superior Court officials, are accused of running an illegal, mandatory, electronic filing system.
Attorney Steven J. Newton, who represents the plaintiffs, contends that filings in Fulton County State and Superior Courts, filed through the LexisNexis File & Serve system, can cost up to $11 per filing in cases where electronic filing is mandated by orders from Fulton County State and Superior Courts and authorized by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners.
According to the motion to dismiss the case, LexisNexis Courtlink is only “complying with a series facially-valid orders entered by the members of the Georgia judiciary establishing the e-filing system and ordering their use, adhering to e-filing rules that were annually approved by the Georgia Supreme Court and performing the function of a clerk in accordance with the terms of a ‘revenue-generating’ public contract that was entered with the Fulton County Board of Commissioners.” Attorneys representing Fulton County State and Superior officials also hailed immunity in their motions to dismiss the case.
Newton, however, said the attorneys representing the defendants have failed to address his primary reasons supporting the lawsuit: state laws stating clerks should accept paper filings, limiting the fees the clerk can add to those approved by general law and authorizing magistrate court to accept optional e-filing.
In his response to attorneys representing Fulton County State and Superior Court officials, he argued that defendants are not entitled to immunity as they “have failed to proffer any evidence that they were within the scope of their authority when they agreed to refuse paper filings.”
Newton added that “young children could perform the ministerial task of accepting paper filings. Illegal conduct is a violation of the defendants’ job description and thus makes evident the individual defendants were not acting within the scope of their employment and are therefore not entitled to a defense of qualified immunity.”
“It’s a separation of powers argument,” Newton said. “If this is legal, then the judges instead of the General Assembly can legislate.”
Attorneys representing LexisNexis Courtlink and Fulton County State and Superior Court officials did not return calls for comment.
Aside from LexisNexis Courtlink, defendants are Mark Harper, chief clerk of the Fulton County State Court; A.L. Thompson, Fulton County State Court chief judge; Doris L. Downs, Fulton County Superior Court chief judge; Cathlene “Tina” Robinson, clerk of the Fulton County Superior Court and Fulton County, Ga.