Statewide e-filing system helps public stay informed

Indiana’s top courts are forging ahead on an electronic-filing system that state officials say eventually will give the public free access to online court records statewide.

The Indiana Supreme Court and the state Court of Appeals began offering e-filing in November, and the Indiana Tax Court will follow this month. The goal is for trial courts in all 92 counties to offer e-filing by the end of 2018. One county already has instituted it, and six others will follow in the next six months.

Attorneys can still file paper versions of briefs and other legal documents for the two top state courts, but they’re already starting to embrace e-filing because it eliminates the costs of photocopying, binding, mailing and hand-delivering voluminous amounts of documents.

It’s a “modernization of how we do business,” high court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan said, noting e-filing will lessen the state’s need to store reams of legal documents. The state high court alone is asked to consider about 1,000 cases a year, and each can generate boxes of documents, all of which must be stored.

The supreme court announced in May 2014 that Indiana would move toward a statewide e-filing system. Hamilton County started accepting court documents online in July. Clark, Harrison, Henry, St. Joseph, Shelby and Wells counties will implement e-filing over the next several months.

“Essentially the clerk’s office doors are going to be open electronically, on the Internet, 24-7, 365 days a year, at no cost,” said Stephen Creason, a deputy attorney general and chief counsel of the state attorney general office’s appeals division. “So, the public can find out what the business of the courts is and what is going on in the court system.

“I think that’s a huge step forward for Indiana.”

We agree. Any time government makes it easier for people to obtain public information, it enhances democracy and openness in government.

At issue

Hoosier courts are moving toward greater use of electronic filing of documents.

Our point

Making public documents more available is solid step toward enhancing openness in government.