Madison County Circuit Court to begin e-filing March 1

February 24, 2010

Madison County Circuit Court will begin accepting voluntary electronic filing of court documents in specified civil cases March 1. Electronic filing becomes mandatoryin those civil cases April 15, according to an order signed by Circuit Judges William E. Chapman III and Samac Richardson.

The Circuit and Chancery Courts of Madison County are participating in the Mississippi Electronic Courts (MEC) pilot project. Madison County Chancery Court was the first court in the state to extensively test electronic filing in 2008, and the Chancery Court has filed documents electronically since July 2009.

Madison County Circuit Court will be the first Circuit Court to extensively test the e-filing program.

Chancery Courts in Scott and Warren counties are also participating in the pilot program. Voluntary electronic filing became available Feb. 15 in Scott County Chancery Court, and e-filing becomes mandatory there on April 1. A date has not been set for Warren County Chancery Court to begin e-filing.

The pilot program has adapted the federal court’s e-filing system for use in state courts. The system allows attorneys to file their pleadings and retrieve documents via the Internet, and makes court records more accessible to the public.

Judge Chapman said that the e-filing system was adapted first for civil cases because circuit civil proceedings are more similar to chancery pleadings. After the system is implemented for civil case filings, work will begin to adapt the system for use in criminal case filings.

Judge Chapman also said that adapting the system which has been used for years in the federal court system will promote efficiency and accessibility in state trial courts.

“Implementation of the e-filing system will allow court personnel, judges, attorneys and parties to be more efficient because case files will be accessible online,” Judge Chapman said. “The large amounts of pleadings and documents the court clerk receives will be maintained electronically instead of in paper form, and this will also allow the public to access their court system online.”

Madison County Circuit Clerk Lee Westbrook said, “In any courthouse, storage of files is a problem. An electronic system will help us alleviate the storage problems we all face. Additionally, I think attorneys will enjoy the ability to review a file at their leisure rather than having to visit the courthouse to view the file.”

Westbrook said, “We look forward to having the attorneys utilize the system very shortly. So far everything has just worked so smoothly, and we appreciate the Supreme Court allowing Madison County to be a pilot.”

Westbrook said that her office will maintain a dual docketing system until the Circuit Court authorizes the old system to be retired. In the old system, files are docketed by computer but stored as paper. The MEC system includes computerized docketing with all documents scanned as electronic images. Under the MEC system, the original civil complaint will be filed in paper format, then the papers will be scanned into electronic images. Subsequent filings in civil cases will be submitted as electronic images.