Bar News - May 21, 2014
e-Court Is Coming, Not Just for Small Claims
By: Kristen Senz
The development of the NH e-Court Project has turned a corner, with the first phase scheduled to go live in less than 90 days, says Senior NH Circuit Court Administrator Gina Apicelli.
The small claims pilot project is on track to launch July 30 in Concord and Plymouth, with either NH State Police plea-by-mail motor vehicle cases or guardianship cases to follow a few months later.
“It’s scary, but exciting,” Apicelli said recently, noting that the small claims pilot project paves the way for a fully paperless court system in New Hampshire within two years.
The court is currently reviewing revised e-filing rules and is expected to adopt them on a temporary basis within in the next few weeks. The rules are designed to be flexible to accommodate an ambitious electronic court system that would eventually encompass all case types.
Project planners are still ironing out the details of the case-filing fee structure and assessments that will support the e-Court project going forward. Apicelli said software vendor Tyler Technologies Inc. of Texas will not collect a portion of filing fees, as it will in Massachusetts, when a small-scale e-filing system launches there this summer, according to a recent article in the Boston Globe. Apicelli said court officials have reviewed many options for structuring the filing fees and should be ready to announce the new system by late May or early June.
The NH Judicial Branch also is working with a second software vendor, Intresys of San Mateo, California, to supply a separate e-filing system for pro se litigants that is designed to be more interview-based and user-friendly. Attorneys will be able to access the pro se system, but pro se litigants will not have access to the attorney system.
The court plans to invite public librarians and other service providers who interact with pro se litigants to try out the e-filing interface at an event scheduled for June 9. Attorneys who handle small claims cases will be invited to a similar event June 10. Open houses where all attorneys will be able to test drive the new system will be scheduled in August, Apicelli said. The court will also be hosting webinars and posting tutorials online.
Project developers and stakeholders also are still working to address the issue of public access to online court records. There will be no public access to the small claims cases filed online during the pilot project. At a meeting scheduled for mid-June, the e-Court Project team will request that the Supreme Court Public Access Task Force tackle some specific issues, Apicelli said.
Court officials addressed the NH Legislature May 1 to provide lawmakers with an update on the progress of the e-Court Project. A link to the audio recording of the session can be found at gencourt.state.nh.us.