A great percentage of documents in a case file are produced by the court. Therefore it is imperative that a court e-filing system seamlessly interact with the court’s case management system (CMS) and word processing capabilities.
All CMS contain the case number, caption, party, attorney, participant, and process information. However many CMS do not necessarily assist judges or even staff to create documents. Ideally document templates would be automatically called (usually via macro and SQL query) and merge all data that can be properly derived from the CMS into the court-created document. In contrast, if judges and court staff are re-typing that information into the document, then much efficiency of court automation systems are lost. And it is necessary that a full featured word processing system be used for this function since this operation should be used for all court documents and not only for “standard” CMS derived “forms/reports”.
Once the documents are created and submitted to the CMS in the court there are two benefits. The first is that the documents are “self-docketing” since they were created through the CMS and so it “knows” what the document is; and second the E-filing system can be used for notification and distribution thus reducing if not eliminating manual processing of these functions.
Parenthetically, a benefit to the E-filing process from CMS/document creation integration is that the system and computer network themselves provides and support validation and verification of the documents provided by CMS user authentication.
Last, in 2011 and onward document creation should be based upon the international ODF standard, since they are XML standards based, are one potential form for document creation that is supported by Microsoft Office 2010, WordPerfect, and Open Office and/or Libre Office systems. No more .doc or .wpd file conversion issues since they all support an open and international document standard. This approach also alleviates future incompatibilities and supports electronic archiving requirements. Application of this standard by courts can be extended to the bar and other filers as a “web-based service” in order to support their side of the E-filing document equation. Unfortunately there are very few systems that provide document templates or even guidance to attorneys in creating electronic documents. By reference, Singapore and the Texas Supreme Court are leaders in this approach.