Ohio pushes for e-filing standards

Rules that went into effect this month will set the stage for minimum standards

for Ohio court jurisdictions to build a common base for filing documents

electronically.

Ohio courts are otherwise autonomous, a situation that is seen as promoting

technology innovation, but the 90 or so computer systems used throughout

the state are a potential barrier to the future of online services. Standards

would enable lawyers, members of the public and law enforcement officials

to use the same electronic forms to send documents and information to all

the courts.

"There's a wide variety of different case management systems around

the state," said Christian Selch, manager of technology policy and planning

for the state Supreme Court. "The rules will help define what the minimum

components of a consistent system would be."

However, in setting those standards, it will be important for courts

to retain the autonomy to choose the technology they use, he said. Ohio

courts subscribe to a market-driven policy to spur innovation in the use

of technology, and the standards should not interfere with that.

It could take as little as five years for some of the courts to embrace

e-filing of documents, but as long as 20 years for others, Selch warned.

"It's a diverse state, with large rural and Appalachian areas," he said.

"Some of the courts aren't even computerized yet, so it's reasonable to

assume it could take that long with them."

Officials from the state Supreme Court are now working to see how they

can get computer systems into those areas, Selch said, and are looking for

grants and other resources to help. They also are setting up a program aimed

at moving the process along.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached

at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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