A March 18 Daily Report article ("House budget bill doesn't fund electronic filing for courts") suggested Georgia's judiciary is not prepared to initiate a statewide civil e-filing project, and this was the reason the state's 2014 fiscal year budget did not include an appropriation for e-filing project oversight.
However, thanks to the Statewide Judiciary Civil E-filing Steering Committee, the Administrative Office of the Courts has been preparing to move forward on an e-filing initiative for all Georgia courts for several months. Accordingly, the Judicial Council requested $208,000 in the 2014 budget to initiate a statewide civil e-filing project.
The committee is working diligently to bring e-filing to every level of court. Committee members include judges, court clerks, attorneys, legislators and the executive branch. This committee has seen first-hand that Georgia is lagging in a service that can benefit all of its citizens by lowering the costs of taking matters to court and improving the efficiency of the court system through automation.
In 2011, the State Bar passed a resolution supporting e-filing, saying "… the public interest would be best served by all stakeholders working together to develop a uniform statewide electronic court filing and retrieval system." The resolution went on to request that the courts "immediately begin coordinating efforts to design, build and administer" an e-filing system.
Georgia's courts serve our citizens on less than 1 percent of the state's budget. But the judiciary simply does not have the staffing resources to further this high-impact project. The start-up funding request to the General Assembly will allow the courts to hire an experienced program director to guide the civil e-filing project and build collaboration with the many stakeholders in the court system. This is a necessary starting point.
As Georgia attorneys are well aware, many other states already offer electronic filing to their citizens, as do the federal courts. Georgia's delays are not a technology problem. The stakeholders understand the issues, the complexity of this project, and that such a large-scale project needs to be managed. A task of this magnitude will need the support of all three branches of government to succeed.
As the House and the Senate confer on the 2014 fiscal year budget, this request sits in limbo. Should the legislature appropriate the necessary resources to pursue this project properly, the public should know that the courts stand ready to move this effort forward.
Marla S. Moore, Director, Administrative Office of the Courts