Arkansas Supreme Court encouraging electronic filing
Last month, the Arkansas Supreme Court adopted an order that encourages — but does not require — courts throughout the state to participate in a uniform system allowing for legal documents to be filed electronically.
After years of working to lay the framework for electronic filing throughout courts in Arkansas, the Supreme Court adopted Administrative Order 21 on June 17 (go ahead and click the link to pull up the complete order in PDF format).
Arkansas Supreme Court Communications Counsel Stephanie Harris said the order represents a significant step in achieving the state’s overall goal in making electronic filing a standard practice throughout the Natural State. She said the Supreme Court has paid for the most expensive piece of the puzzle — the software necessary for electronic filing.
Harris said the Supreme Court will make that available to all courts — circuit, district, appeals and the Supreme Court — in Arkansas, but said there will be some expenses involved in implementing electronic filing will incur. Courts may, for example, have to upgrade their broadband Internet access in order to accommodate electronic filing, invest in additional computer hardware and incur other expenses.
For that reason, Harris said the Supreme Court has not made switching to electronic filing mandatory. Still, she said it’s clear that the convenience of filing documents electronically is becoming more popular and speculated that all Arkansas circuit courts will, sooner or later, elect to allow for electronic filing.
All courts that do elect to take part in the electronic filing program will be required to do a few things. First of all, they’ll have to use the system provided by the Administrative Office of the Court. Second, conventional filing — using paper pleadings — will be phased out and electronic filing will become the standard.
According to the Administrative Order, initiating documents — those pleadings that mark the beginning of cases — will be still be filed conventionally by now. According to the order, the thought is cases should be started by skilled court clerks who know how to set up the electronic system successfully. Subsequent pleadings will be filed electronically.
Harris said it could take a few years for courts around the state to implement the system. Still, the Administrative Order represents a good step toward a day when online filing is the way things are commonly done in Arkansas.
She added that no Arkansas courts — not even the Supreme Court — have transitioned to online filing yet. Harris said the Administrative Order putting that system in place is very new and it will take time for courts to adopt it.
Still, there are some courts that offer the public the chance to view certain documents online. Garland, Hot Spring and Pulaski counties offer court documents online and Faulkner County is working on putting them on the Internet.
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.