Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Why the Future Is Not Paper - Second in a Series

Many courts are continuing to view and insist that E-filed electronic documents should continue to be functionally the same as their paper and much dumber cousins.  Please consider that information entombed in a paper document is now locked as to the accuracy of the moment it is printed.  It is essentially a snapshot.  This of course results in all sorts of problems as to the information accuracy when that paper document is later read and used.  And unfortunately, judges and court staff are relying on the accuracy of that locked paper information to make decisions that affect people’s lives.

Say for example a person has a judgment later set aside.  The original judgment document is still there as the written case record.  But later when the document becomes invalid, wouldn’t it be great if the original document could display a link maybe even a flashing icon to the later and more current order?  Of course
it would. The electronic document world can and should be information dynamic.  The electronic legal research companies are providing tools that automatically perform cite and currency checks against statutory and case law.  Why wouldn't the courts take advantage of this capability in the documents submitted for action?  Hyper-links and icons can indicate whether the citation is accurate and when the statute was changed.

Future electronic documents could also provide similar checks against the appropriate databases for a persons’ status say if they were on probation or had a civil protection order in another jurisdiction.  The accuracy checks could be done dynamically when the document is displayed and in turn, reduces the need to capture this information in the court’s case management system. Now we know the argument is that the original document shouldn't be changed because it represents the actual case submissions and that status must be preserved for potential appellate review.  We would in turn argue that the reference links could be filtered or “turned-off” when used in an appellate or similar context.  Again, it is dynamic.  Can your “dead-tree” document do that?

Next – how do you verify a paper document?