Elec­tronic case fil­ing comes to Ce­cil County courts

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By CARL HAMIL­TON

ca­hamil­ton@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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-

ELK­TON

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.

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