Friday, May 17, 2013

Email and E-Filing

Maybe it is time to think differently about Email?


Very few persons in the USA know that the first court E-filing was done in the country of Austria (Europe, not the continent “down under”) in 1989 using a dedicated Email system.  An article posted today by columnist Ed Bott on ZDNet about the ease of using Microsoft’s service for “custom” Email accounts got me thinking that perhaps we need to revisit this connection.

Now I am probably not suggesting that Email be used for submitted documents to the courts via attachments.  I think that electronic attachments may not necessarily be the most efficient or verifiable approach.   But what we might think about is providing dedicated Email accounts managed by the courts and state or local bar associations to attorneys to eliminate the variable that the myriad of Email solutions that are used?  So the idea that I am suggesting is when an attorney registers to be able to E-file in a court, the court (and again it would be great if this were coordinated with the appropriate bar association) would create a new “legal work” Email account to them.  The Email account would then be known to the court and used to transmit notices, reminders, links, scheduling requests to the registered attorney.  The parameters and capabilities of the Email system would also be known and that could greatly assist in the development of new communications technologies.

The court could also provide training materials showing attorneys how they could connect their Email to their preferred desktop or mobile systems.  I currently have several personal Email systems connected to one another simply because it is easy to do so.

Eliminating variables is generally a good idea in systems design.  Perhaps it is time for courts to think about eliminating this one?


  1. Basically, I think what you propose is a solution in search of a problem. For instance, in my court we require attorneys/others to register and keep current a valid e-mail address that the court will use to officially communicate with. No need for the court to issue such an address, and if a user doesn't keep the registered address up to date, he or she pays the penalty of missing information, etc. -- a powerful incentive to not let that happen. We do not have many problems in this regard.

  2. Thanks for the comment. What I have run into in some situations is private counsel who use insecure e-mail systems such as Yahoo mail that is continually being "hacked". Second, they also mix personal and business e-mail into the same account that results in messages being mixed. Third, document attachments are often filtered thus preventing smooth communication. And last, this approach has been effectively used by the courts in Israel as reported previously here in the CTB - see this article from 2009:

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