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E-Filing Arrives At St. Louis Circuit Court

(via Flickr/pasa47)

A big change arrives at the St. Louis circuit court today - the start of mandatory e-filing.

As of today, clerks will no longer accept paper filings for almost all court cases. There are exceptions for individuals who file a case without the help of an attorney. Court employees are also digitizing old cases for electronic storage.

Circuit clerk Jane Schweitzer says the court has been preparing for what she calls the "earth-shattering" transition for two years. Court employees handle between 2,500 and 3,000 documents a day, and Schweitzer says the current paper-based system is time-consuming and leaves plenty of room for error.

"It goes through a lot of different hands, a lot of different people are looking at it. Sometimes, sadly, it doesn’t even make it to the court file," she said. "It’s just not a real accurate way of doing business."

The system will also speed up the time it takes for documents to be added to court files. And it could save money.

The city currently pays about $225,000 a year to store paper documents.  The digitization process should reduce the amount of space needed.

"And what we know from St. Charles, when it started two years ago, within the first year, they saved $35,000 just by not having to buy paper files," Schweizter said.

Attorney Joe Frank, the president-elect of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, says the electronic system makes it easier to access information-  important when billing is done by the hour.

"If you’re able to with a couple of clicks of the mouse get that information and have that available to you instead of having to go to the courthouse and spend all the time getting the file and getting the document, it saves the litigants and the attorneys a tremendous amount of time and a tremendous amount of money," Frank said.

He says attorneys in the 26 other circuits that have already adopted e-filing tell him that the system generates a lot of email, but has otherwise been beneficial.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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