Do you ever wonder where are all those neat gadgets we were promised in age-old sci-fi shows? Things like flying cars, lasers capable of incinerating matter and our outpost on Mars? I want all of those things, too.
But I’d settle for electronic filing of pleadings in Maryland state courts.
I’m working on a couple of federal cases right now and I am reminded how much I love electronic filing. No more envelopes. No more stamps. No more paper copies sent out, no more paper copies coming in. The elegance of a “ /s/ ” signature, the sophistication of “Print to PDF,” the ability to file something at 11:59 p.m. (not recommended, but possible).
Sure, there are tradeoffs. The federal court system requires a $350 filing fee for civil cases, about $200 more than state court. You need a modicum of technical ability and hardware, which can be tough for some “old dog” lawyers or solo practitioners. To me, though, it’s all worth it to be able to know immediately that filings are successful and to be able to download a reliable case docket at the touch of a button.
So where is our state court version? The last I heard, we’re still working on the prototype, which will be tested in Anne Arundel County this year. The full statewide (including appellate courts) roll-out is reportedly expected by 2016. Maryland Electronic Courts has some details, though it appears they are still working out the ever-important pay system.
For my money, I’d prefer a system like the federal courts — pay a fee up front and not worry about paying a fee for every single document filed. A simple, flat fee is the way to go. It’s easier for accounting and it just feels better than penalizing lawyers for filing more documents.