Electronic filing saves time for courthouse, public

Tuesday, March 4, 2014 | 5:04 p.m. CST; updated 9:42 p.m. CST, Tuesday, March 4, 2014

COLUMBIA — Two computers sitting in Boone County Courthouse now give citizens direct access to public court documents. That's one of several changes that have occurred since the courthouse adopted an electronic filing system in early February.

Boone County joined more than 30 other state courts that have already switched to an electronic system. With electronic filing, attorneys must file case documents online rather than mail them to the courthouse.

Although the new system has been an adjustment, it is already saving judges, clerks and lawyers time every day, Boone County Circuit Clerk Christy Blakemore said.

"We used to spend a lot of time pulling files for the daily dockets, a lot of time searching for files and putting them back into their places," Blakemore said. "There were many places the files could be (and) that will now go away because now it will always be accessible."

Overall, Blakemore said the system has been working well and procedures in court have been going smoothly. She has also heard positive feedback from her staff, who appreciate being able to receive and process files electronically.

The electronic files will also allow the public to skip the lines for the clerk’s window and access documents through two computers in the clerk’s office. With the system in its infancy, the public has yet to make great use of the computers, but the clerk's staff believes interest will increase.

To access public documents:

  • Go to the Office of the Circuit Clerk on the first floor of the courthouse.
  • Open on one of the office's public computers.
  • Look up the litigant's name or case number to find a specific case. The "E-CASE" marker indicates the cases that have files available online.
  • Choose the "Service Information" or "Docket Entries" tab, and click on the highlighted links. A new window will open that shows related public documents.
  • If desired, print selected documents and bring them to the clerk's window to pay. The first page costs $1, and every page after costs an additional 10 cents.

The clerk staff began scanning files in January 2013, and a majority of pending files have been made available online, with a few exceptions for larger cases, Blakemore said. Although anyone can see the public files, for now only those with a Missouri Bar number are able to electronically file documents.

Pro se litigants, those who represent themselves in court and often file small claims cases, will still have to file by mail or in person, as will probation and parole agencies.

The Office of State Courts Administrator is working to expand electronic filing to include these agencies, but it will not be available until late 2014, Catherine Zacharias, legal counsel at the courts administrator office, said.

The office is waiting until electronic filing is implemented in all Missouri courts before it takes on allowing pro se litigants to file online, Zacharias said.

"With pro se filers, we want to make sure whatever we have is easily understood," she said.

Zacharias said that it will probably never be mandatory for pro se filers to file electronically because some litigants, such as prisoners, don't have access to the Internet.

"There will always be some type of paper filing coming to courts," she said.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

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