Electronic case filing comes to Cecil County courts
— Cecil County Circuit and District Courts are now using an electronic case filing system – a change that will allow an unlimited number of people to access the same computer court file simultaneously, instead of one person at a time being able to view the sole paper court file, state court officials reported.
The new case management system, which is called Maryland Electronic Courts (MDEC), also is expected to significantly reduce the use of paper, relieve the strain of finding room to store paper court files and make filing faster, according to Clerk of Court Charlene Notarcola, who supervises several Cecil County Circuit Court departments.
“It will be a lot more efficient,” Notarcola said.
Cecil County courts officially started using the electronic filing system Monday, along with Caroline, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties, which are the other Upper Eastern Shore counties that make up Maryland’s 2nd Judicial Circuit.
Under the new case management system, it is now mandatory for lawyers to electronically file all new Cecil County civil and crimi-
nal cases in Circuit Court and District Court, as well as any appellate filings that commence in the county.
As for the existing paper court files in civil and criminal cases, all future attorney-generated motions and pleadings relating to those Cecil County cases must be filed electronically.
Citizens, meanwhile, still will be allowed to use the old paper system to file their cases and pleadings.
However, residents have the option to file their cases and pleadings electronically and can do so – as long as they are willing to stick it out.
“Once you become a registered e-filer, you have to stay a registered e-filer. It’s not like you can do it and say, ‘I didn’t like it,’ and go back,” Notarcola explained.
Registered e-filers can access electronic court files from their personal computers, as well as from computers in the courthouses.
“You can’t see anything that’s confidential, but you can access all public files if you are a registered e-filer,” Notarcola said.
The electronic filing system is expected to end the periodic problem of courthouse employees and courthouse visitors having to locate paper court files, which sometimes are transferred back and forth from the criminal or civil depart- ments to judges’ chambers as cases progress through the court system.
“You won’t have to track down files anymore,” Notarcola said, adding, “Now, someone can be looking at a file (on computer) while other people are looking at that same file on their computers.”
Maryland attorneys have been filing electronically, or “e-filing,” since October 2014, when MDEC launched in Anne Arundel County as Maryland court officials began their push to make the electronic filing system statewide.
State court officials are expanding the highly automated system to provide attorneys with the opportunity to transition from a paper-based process to a technology-based electronic filing system.
“We at the Maryland Judiciary are continuously focusing on improving our systems,” said Mary Ellen Barbera, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland. “MDEC is modernizing the way we manage our court records. This system is helping us eliminate our reliance on paper files. It’s improving the transfer of records as cases progress through the system, and it’s making our courts more accessible to our litigants.”
Courts will no longer accept paper filings from attorneys in areas where MDEC has launched, such as Cecil County. However, under state law, there are circumstances in which a person may be excused from the efiling requirement, Barbera said. Nonpayment of rent cases filed under Maryland Code, Real Property, Section 8-401, will continue to be exempt from mandatory electronic filing until further notice, she added.
For several months, lawyers in Cecil County have had access to MDEC webinars and a “help desk” to assist them in preparing for Monday’s switch from paper filing to e-filing, Notarcola reported.
In addition, as part of the preparation for MDEC’s launch on the Upper Eastern Shore, state court officials had been scheduling informational events at several locations to help attor- neys learn about the new system, how to register to use it, and how to e-file.
The Judiciary website, www. cour ts. state. md. us, has more information about MDEC, e-filing, and how to register to e-file. Attorneys and staff who are registered to e-file can register for webinars and training.