Posted March 27, 2018 in Court Updates
By Mark Schwartz
Many of you are likely aware of the “electronic goings on” at the Los Angeles Superior Court. For both you, and for those of you who may not be as plugged in as you wish, my hope is that this article will provide you with some additional/helpful information on how things started and where they are going, in one of the largest (if not the largest) court jurisdictions in the world.
eFiling began in earnest in LA on May 1, 2017. By “earnest” I mean an integrated system with an EFM sitting between the court’s CMS and EFSPs.
Okay, some quick terminology before we continue:
1. EFM – Electronic Filing Manager. It’s the hardware and software that sits between the courts.
2. CMS – Case Management System. It’s the hardware and software that allows the court to manage its cases, hearings, etc.
3. EFSP – Electronic Filing Service Provider. That’s us. You could say that we are today’s modern version of an attorney service.
Now that’s not entirely true (today’s version of an attorney service, that is) because there are some things, certainly, that electronic filing ecosystems cannot do, or more appropriately said, that a law firm cannot do with the system. Paper courtesy copies (yes, many judges and justices still want paper) can’t be sent electronically. Some courts (most, in fact) do not allow previously filed documents to be available via an EFSPs platform (except those eFiled with that EFSP); besides the technical reasons they need the revenue. Some documents (I call them “exception documents”) must be filed or delivered physically – either the court (or the system) has not yet figured out to process (no pun intended) them well, or at all. For example, a certain county recorder or sheriff may not honor an electronically-issued abstract or writ — still some challenges to be sure. That, however, is a story for another day.
The e-Filing Fray
Let’s get back to LA. On March 1, 2016, the court jumped into the eFiling fray with a pilot project. That e-Delivery project (e-Delivery = upload documents via a custom portal and then behind the scenes the clerks print and file just like over-the-counter filings) was small in scope, i.e. for general jurisdiction personal injury cases in certain courtrooms, but it was a start. Pilots like this give the vendor, in this instance Journal Technologies, Inc. (JTI), and the court, a chance to test the waters, if you will.
On May 1, 2017, the court went live with Probate eFiling, and in this case (pun intended this time), not to make things more complicated, it did so with another CMS/EFM vendor: Tyler Technologies. Its product is called OdysseyefileCA, and eighteen (18) other courts are utilizing it, some since 2015. Los Angeles later mandated eFiling (June of the same year) for Probate case types.
By the way, there are now fifty-seven (57) EFSPs in the Tyler landscape, many of whom are CALSPro members. Congratulations to those of you who made the leap!
Next in line, you ask? That would be Family Law. Again, this implementation will be with Tyler and it’s scheduled for April or May of this year. Tyler recently socialized a date of May 7th, but the court’s team still has not socialized a specific date and instead is advising of a date sometime in April or May. As I like to say: the situation is fluid and ever-changing. If all goes well, though, we’ll see eFiling in Family Law case types sometime this spring or early summer, with a mandate to follow approximately one (1) month later.
That brings me to the biggie: Civil. Right now, many EFSPs are working with JTI (remember, JTI is handling Civil cases) to be certified for a June go-live, for Limited jurisdiction cases. A mandate is expected about one (1) month later. After that, the court is planning on a July mandate (no voluntary, or permissive, period) for Complex Civil cases and then, assuming all goes smoothly with Ltd. and Complex, the court will enable the rest of Civil (i.e. Unlimited Jurisdiction cases) in August. Again, a mandate is planned for roughly thirty (30) days later. I want to caution you against relying too heavily on these dates. Instead, think of them as placeholders for now and keep an eye on the Odyssey eFileCA site and the court’s eFiling page.
So, there you have it! It’s been a long time coming, no doubt. For legal support professionals like myself, who’ve been around since the 70’s, it’s a pretty amazing thing to see happening. I realize, also, that it’s a bit daunting. It takes a lot of planning to prepare for such a sea-change so if you haven’t already jumped on the boat, now’s the time to get on board. You too can be relevant in the digital age! Let me know what I can do to help.
About the author:
Mark Schwartz, currently One Legal’s Court Relationship Manager, has been with the company since early 2009 and has worn many hats during his tenure there. He started in the attorney service business in 1975 and has worn many hats since that time as well, including court runner and process server.