Washington Delays Statewide E-Filing for Courts of Limited Jurisdiction

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Washington court officials have decided to delay a planned statewide rollout of a statewide electronic filing system (e-filing) for Washington’s district and municipal courts and probation offices.

The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) announced on June 25 that it was delaying the e-filing component of its Courts of Limited Jurisdiction Case Management System (CLJ-CMS) project—also known as Odyssey File & Serve (OFS). Citing concerns raised by the legal community, “Upon careful and lengthy consideration of the comments received, and several productive discussions held with leaders in the District and Municipal Court Judges Association and the District and Municipal Court Managers Association, the Project Steering Committee has decided to delay implementation of OFS while we sort through the various issues and consider other options.”

AOC officials told NWSidebar concerns and comments were largely directed on e-filing fees that would be borne by legal professionals. Under the original project plan, e-filings at courts of limited jurisdiction in the state would cost a $5 flat fee per filing. Then a 25 cent electronic check fee for courts that choose to accept e-checks, or a credit card charge of 2.89 percent or $1, whichever is higher.

Rather than continue with the planned six-phase implementation—which was scheduled to begin in early June and complete in mid-November—Project Manager Cat Robinson said, “We made the really tough decision to delay.” According to the project’s August newsletter update, “e-filing was never the project’s only focus; during contract negotiations it was decided that e-filing could be implemented independently of the Case Management System (CMS) in relatively short order.”

The delay will allow court officials to review the contract with Tyler Technologies, the state’s vendor for the project, to look for options of changing the funding structure. Robinson wasn’t able to provide a firm estimate for how long the e-filing component of the project will be delayed; however, “What I will say though is our technical team [has] done everything we can so if decision made we’re ready to go live; so we will be able to go pretty rapidly.”

“The other thing to note is that … our governance structure was working well,” Robinson added, noting that as concerns were raised project officials were able to pause the project to address them.

Proposals to update the state’s case management system and implement e-filing dates back to about 2014, as the current aging system has been in use since 1987. Once implemented, Washington will join Oregon and Idaho, which launched their e-filing systems in about 2015 and 2016, respectively. Some local courts in Washington—the state has a non-unified court system, with local courts operating under varying policies and procedures from county to county—have already switched to mandatory e-filing. Washington’s CLJ-CMS project would make it standard across all courts of limited jurisdiction, which according to the AOC processes 2 million cases per year and accounts for about 87 percent of the state’s judicial caseload.