Plaintiffs Win a Round|in Georgia E-Filing Case

ATLANTA (CN) – Attorneys won a round in their 3-year-long argument that Fulton County is running an illegal, mandatory e-filing system. DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Castellani granted a motion to recuse all Fulton County State and Superior Court judges from the case.

     “There exists at this point at least an appearance of impropriety, i.e. a situation in which reasonable minds might perceive that the ability of one of the Fulton County State or Superior Court judges to carry out his or her responsibilities respecting the instant action with impartiality, integrity and or competence is impaired,” Judge Castellani wrote.
     Steven Newton, one of two plaintiffs’ attorneys in McCurdy et al. v. Fulton County and Lexis-Nexis Courtlink, said, “I’m pleased with the order.”
     But Newton said he wonders what will happen as the case progresses, as he has heard that Judge Castellani may retire at the end of the year. Newton expects the case to continue beyond this year.
     Herb Shellhouse, who represented Fulton County at the hearing on the motion, declined to comment except to say that he was “disappointed” by the decision.
     Newton claims on behalf of his clients that Fulton County State and Superior Court judges “participated in the scheme enacted by the defendants to impose a mandatory e-filing system upon litigants in Fulton County State and Superior Courts, charging certain fees in connection therewith; that the judges have participated in this scheme by promulgating a pilot program or otherwise issuing administrative orders authoring co-defendant Lexis-Nexis Courtlink Inc.’s mandatory e-filing scheme and charge of fees therewith.”
     Documents in Fulton County State and Superior Courts, filed through the LexisNexis File & Serve system, cost from $7 to $11 per filing in cases where electronic filing is mandated by orders from Fulton County State and Superior Courts and authorized by Fulton County.
     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 rods, 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 and silicosis damage claims.
     Steven Newton and Shuli Green represent W. Phillip McCurdy III, Michael Cawthon, Nelson Picklesimer, Kenneth Clowdus as administrator for the estate of Kenneth Larry Clowdus and The Best Jewelry Manufacturing Co.
     The lawsuit, filed on Jan. 6, is the fourth claim against Fulton County and Reed Elsevier, owner of Lexis-Nexis Courtlink.
     The Fulton County Superior Court case was originally filed in May 2009, then voluntarily dismissed and refiled on Jan. 6.
     Newton filed a similar federal lawsuit against Lexis-Nexis Courtlink and Fulton County in December 2007 but withdrew it in March 2008, then refiled in June 2008. That case was dismissed in March 2009.

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