There will be fewer attorneys around the Franklin County Courthouse — at least in the circuit clerk’s office.
Franklin County has implemented the Missouri eFiling system and since Sept. 9 attorneys filing cases with the courts are required to do it electronically.
The system, which was introduced two years ago, is currently being used by the Supreme Court of Missouri, trial courts in 15 counties and St. Louis city courts.
Missouri Chief Justice Mary Russell said 30 more counties are expected to make the switch to the system this year.
Franklin County Circuit Clerk William D. Miller said anything filed by an attorney is now done electronically unless it is an order they bring to the court for the judge to sign.
Pro se cases, or cases filed by an individual acting on their own behalf, and any case filed by a state agency are still done on paper.
“There was a lot of anxiety and anticipation, but the switchover has gone smoothly,” Miller said.
Switching to the new system cost the county less than $26,000 and Unit Manager Ruth Klenke said she expects the system will save the county money because the county will purchase fewer office supplies and postage stamps.
“It’s amazing what we’ve spent on file folders alone,” she said.
Miller said the system also will eliminate mountains of paper case files and free up storage space. It also will make files much easier to locate and save time, as many older files are stored in other buildings and clerks have to leave the building to retrieve them.
There also is less cash flow coming into the office, as attorneys use credit or debit cards online to pay filing fees.
Currently, clerks are working on scanning files and putting them into the new system. Klenke said before a paper file can be purged it has to be checked against the computer file to make sure everything related to the case has been scanned.
So far, there has been a positive response to the new system from both attorneys and judges.
“It’s easier to find (cases) on the screen and you don’t have to shuffle through a lot of papers,” Judge David Tobben said.
Attorney Joseph Blanner of Chesterfield said he finds the system convenient and easy.
“It allows you to file without sending a paralegal or secretary to the courthouse,” he said. “And you can access all the pleadings without difficulty.”
Blanner said the system also saves the client money because he doesn’t have to bill hours for sending someone over to the courthouse to file.
The e-file system also will alert attorneys via email of every request or entry pertaining to a case, but Miller said that could have one drawback.
“If the attorney doesn’t request to be removed from a case after its completion, that attorney will be notified every time a request is made on the case,” he said.
Miller said an attorney could get bombarded with emails.
He added there are still a few local attorneys who are struggling to come onboard, but training is offered to them online.
The face of the courtrooms has changed somewhat with the efiling system. The judge’s bench now has computer monitors instead of rmountains of paper files and attorneys’ briefcases have mostly been replaced with electronic devices.
“A lot of attorneys are using their cellphones,” Miller said.
Currently the system is not offered to the general public to view online, he said, but there is a public viewing station just outside the circuit clerk’s office. Miller hopes to install a printer so that people can print cases themselves.