Denver Bar Association
January 2004
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Colorado on E-Filing Frontier

by Chief Justice Mary J. Mullarkey
Colorado Supreme Court

The Colorado Supreme Court has a long-term commitment to the effective use of computer technology in the courts. Sometimes the road to progress has been bumpy, but persistence has paid off. In February 2001, Colorado became the first state to make e-filing available to attorneys statewide in the district courts for all general civil, domestic relations, probate and water cases. See C.R.C.P. 121, ยง, 1-26.

The system was designed to accomplish the following:

reduce the overall cost of filing a case; make filing easier for attorneys; provide access to the courts 24 hours a day, seven days a week; reduce the amount of paper to manage in the court and by attorneys; automatically enter e-filed information/data into the court case management system, thereby reducing data entry; collect court fees from attorneys electronically; increase the reliability and speed of retrieving documents; allow multiple persons to access a file simultaneously; reduce the number of lost documents; reduce the time to distribute court orders; reduce traffic in the courthouse; reduce the amount of space in a courthouse devoted to storing paper; and allow court staff to be retrained to do tasks other than storing and retrieving paper files.

Local courts are meeting these objectives to varying degrees, depending on their actual use of the system and whether the courts have made e-filing by attorneys mandatory. Electronic filing is an ongoing effort, and Colorado is gradually reaching the point where it will reap its benefits. By October, 2003, the Denver District Court reported that approximately 50 percent of all civil case documents eligible for e-filing actually were e-filed. This percentage has risen steadily over the past two years.

The courts will realize the full benefits from the new system when e-filing is used by everyone, and the courts no longer maintain duplicate paper files. For example, the day will come when fileroom clerks and staff at the front counter, who currently receive and process paper filings over the counter, can be reassigned to tasks relevant to creating and maintaining the electronic record; e.g., scanning documents and making them available electronically to indigent parties. This has already occurred in courts in Boulder.

The Supreme Court also encourages judges and their staffs to use the system to file and serve their orders. This is a true time- and money-saver, eliminating the need for making copies, stuffing envelopes and paying postage. We recognize, however, that the courts are in a transition period, and some courts struggle to maintain both a paper system and an electronic system. Without diminishing the very real difficulty that the transition to e-filing poses, the Court continues to support this project and encourages attorneys to use this option at every opportunity.

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