Courthouses Nationwide Going Paperless

LUFKIN, Texas – The Ward R. Burke Federal Courthouse is moving into the electronic age as a new paperless filing system is instituted, joining more than 100 courts across the country.

Attorneys who litigate at the Burke court will soon be required to file all case-related documents electronically, using the court’s Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) system.

With CM/ECF, the Burke court clerk's office will immediately notify attorneys who try to file paper documents improperly. Criminal and Social Security case files will not be open to the public over the Internet, due to security. Scanned case documents currently available can still be accessed with the court's public-use computer.

The national roll-out of the CM/ECF system for bankruptcy courts started in early 2001, and is scheduled to take two to three years. The CM/ECF system for district courts began to roll out nationally in May 2002. Implementation of the CM/ECF system for appellate courts is currently scheduled to begin in late 2004.

The system replaces the aging electronic docketing and case management systems, additionally allowing courts to keep and accept Internet files. CM/ECF is now used in 48 district courts and 74 bankruptcy courts, in addition to others, the site states. The system currently holds more than 14 million cases.

There are no added fees for filing documents over the Internet using CM/ECF, but there are existing document filing fees. Electronic access to court data is available through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) program. Litigants receive one free copy of documents filed electronically in their cases, which they can save or print for their files.

Directed by the U.S. Congress to fund electronic access through user fees, the judiciary has set the fee at the lowest possible level sufficient to recoup program costs.

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