The court system in the United States is undergoing dramatic changes as part of an effort to cut costs, reduce face-to-face contact and provide more efficient services.
To help explain those changes and outline ways to spur courthouse modernization, Advanced Kiosks is producing a series looking at the challenges of courthouse modernization and how implementing self-service kiosks can help address those challenges.
Over the past several years, courts throughout the United States have implemented e-filing systems for legal documents in an effort to streamline courthouse operations and minimize the use of paper.
E-filing offers a host of benefits for users. According to Direct Legal Support, a provider of court support services in California, benefits of e-filing include:
- Saves time, money, and transportation costs
- Reduces delays in retrieving court documents
- Enhances virtual filing accessibility from the convenience of home or the office
- Enables attorneys and court clerks to work more efficiently by reducing the time and effort needed to manage case files
- Allows most legal professionals (attorneys and paralegals) to receive notices, orders, and judgments from the court electronically
E-filing is quickly becoming the preferred method of submitting legal documents. Attorneys, paralegals, process servers and other legal support service professionals likely use e-filing regularly. They can typically file documents from anywhere, at any time of the day, eliminating the need to make multiple trips to the courthouse and wait in line to file. In some jurisdictions and with certain types of cases, e-filing is mandatory.
Users are provided with a receipt once an e-filed document has been accepted by the system, meaning there’s no doubt about when documents were filed if there’s a deadline, and documents are easily retrieved if needed. And because participants in a case are notified instantly when documents are e-filed, the process can help speed up the resolution of a case.
E-filing can also be used by those representing themselves, increasing access to the legal system. According to the Pew Research Center, 30 million Americans each year deal with legal issues in court without a lawyer. That equates to 1 in 3 U.S. households, with housing, family or debt problems the most common issues.
“These are cases that can have significant life consequences,” said Pew’s Qudsiya Naqui in an article posted on the center’s website. “For example, if you are not able to get online and modify your child support payment because you lost your job due to the pandemic, you could end up in arrears for child support that can result in incarceration in some states.”
Naqui co-authored a Pew report, “How Courts Embraced Technology, Met the Pandemic Challenge, and Revolutionized Their Operations.”
That does create some issues, though. People may not have a computer and/or Internet access at home. A 2021 Census Bureau study found that 8% of the U.S. population doesn’t have access to a laptop or desktop computer at home, and 15% don’t have broadband Internet access. Those living in rural areas and those with lower income were the least likely to have computers and/or broadband; they are also the most likely to have to interact with the legal system without legal help.
Additionally, legal terminology can be difficult to understand without proper training, Pew studies found, especially for those with disabilities or limited English skills. That puts them at a tremendous disadvantage compared with debt collectors or other organizations that may have a large legal staff at their disposal.
To overcome these issues, courthouses need to provide an easy-to-understand, on-site way for people to e-file documents.
Up next in the Court Modernization Series: Part 3 – Streamlining Legal Form Fill & Submission
Advanced Kiosks has for nearly 20 years been a leader in developing self-service solutions for many areas where we conduct business, and courthouses are no exception.
Our products make it easy for citizens to check in to appointments with probation officers, file legal documents, apply for permits and perform a host of other court-related functions.
Contact us today to see how we can assist in your courthouse modernization efforts.