Vol. 81, No. 7, July
What's new in the court rule?
The new rule, codified as Wis. Stat. section 801.17, makes as few
possible from current practices and procedures. Changes were necessary
in four key areas
to achieve the efficiency that is the hallmark of electronic filing,
while the fifth
change provides added protection for confidential documents.
- Electronic filing and service. The technical requirements
of the e-filing
system are basic ones such as Internet access, an e-mail address,
and the ability to
create PDF files. Unless personal service is required,
documents are served through the
electronic filing system on the other registered users.
- Electronic recordkeeping. Clerks are allowed to maintain
instead of paper ones. Parties filing paper documents must submit
copies instead of
original pleadings and exhibits so the clerk can keep an electronic
record instead of a
- Electronic signatures. The e-filing system includes an
signature component. Attorneys, self-represented parties, and court
officials are allowed to
use this secure, confidential electronic signature instead of a
- Electronic notarization. Notaries will have electronic
signatures and seals
so that paper documents need not be generated for the sole purpose
of notarizing them.
- Confidential documents. The filing party must
documents (such as the financial disclosure statement and
confidential petition addendum in
a family case) and note confidential information contained within an
document (such as a trade secret included in a motion).
The Hon. Gerald Ptacek, Racine County Circuit Court, chaired the
that drafted the new e-filing rule. "In moving to a paperless
system, the committee did
its best to mirror existing procedures and how things are done in the
paper world. Most
of the changes are really quite simple: instead of putting pen to paper,
users will be putting `fingers to the keyboard.' The procedure remains
the same, only
the means is changed."
What's required of the law office?
- Registration. Lawyers become "registered users"
by signing up online and
providing identifying information such as name, address, State Bar
member number, and email
address. Lawyers then are provided with a user name and password
that allows them to
use the e-filing system for any of their cases. They also are
assigned a personal
identification number (PIN) that allows them to sign pleadings
- Filing a new case. To file a new case, a lawyer or lawyer's
(the user) enters basic information on the e-filing Web site,
including party names and
addresses, case class code, the name of the county in which the case
is being filed,
and the name of the document being filed. The filing fee is
calculated automatically and
can be paid by credit card or electronic fund transfer. The user
attaches a copy of
the summons and complaint or petition as a portable document format
(PDF) file. The
lawyer signs the pleadings by typing in his or her user name,
password, and PIN, and then
submits the documents to the e-filing system.
- Service of a new case. All properly filed documents are
sent to a queue in
the clerk of circuit court's office. The clerk reviews the documents
and accepts them
for filing. The CCAP case management system creates a case
automatically using the
information entered by the user on the e-filing Web site. The system
assigns a case number
and authenticates the document. An email is sent automatically to
the user indicating
that the case has been successfully filed. The email includes a link
to the filed
documents, which are available on the e-filing Web site and can be
printed and served. Service
must be made by traditional means unless the defendant agrees to
accept electronic service.
- Answer. The e-filing system generates a notice to be served
on defendants with
the summons and complaint, letting them know that they may
participate in electronic
filing if they so choose. Defendants who register will then file and
subsequent documents via the e-filing Web site. Defendants who
choose not to e-file will file
and receive their documents by traditional means such as mail or
- Subsequent filings. All further transactions between
registered users and
the court take place via the e-filing Web site. Features allow
electronic payment of
jury fees, electronic notarization of documents, sealing of
confidential documents, and
filing of documents and reports by nonparties.
- Convenience fee. In Wis. Stat. section 758.19(4m), the
legislature has given
the court authority to establish a convenience fee to cover ongoing
maintenance, enhancements, and technical support of the e-filing
system. The fee has not yet
been set, but CCAP will attempt to keep the cost in line with other
systems and competitive with the costs of traditional filing.
Will e-filed documents be available on the court's WCCA Web site?
Attorneys who are familiar with the federal court PACER system might
that the Wisconsin courts will make all electronic documents available
on the WCCA Web
site. In fact, documents are only accessible to the registered users in
"The e-filing Web site and the Wisconsin Circuit Court
Access [WCCA] Web site are
two different things," said Director of State Courts John Voelker.
"The e-filing Web
site will allow registered users to see the complete case file, but only
for cases on
which they are registered. What you see on the WCCA Web site will be
unchanged - we have
no plans to make case documents available by the page, the way PACER
This reflects a policy decision by the WCCA Oversight Committee,
2005-06 to consider how much case information should be displayed on the
court Web site.
According to Voelker, "We are very aware of the need to balance the
public interest in
open government against the sensitive personal information that court
sometimes reveal. The public can still see nonconfidential documents by
coming to the
courthouse, but not over the Internet."
What resources are on the e-filing Web site?
Resources on the Wisconsin circuit court e-filing Web site,
debut July 15, 2008, will include:
- names of counties currently accepting e-filed cases and the types
for which e-filing is available;
- comprehensive instructions and help features;
- responses to frequently asked questions;
- technical requirements; and
- training videos.
E-filing will become available county by county as clerks of circuit
judges implement the new procedures. As e-filing is adopted in each
county, training will
be provided to local lawyers, their employees, and other persons.
Because there is
no schedule of when individual counties will make e-filing available,
lawyers are urged
to periodically visit the e-filing Web site.