Circuit court e-filing provides an easy and efficient way to conduct business with the courts. For attorneys who already e-file with the federal courts or the Wisconsin appellate courts, circuit court e-filing will feel very familiar.
Before You File: Set Up an Account and Delegate Access
Most attorneys already have an eCourts account for filing continuing legal education requirements with the Board of Bar Examiners and for filing electronic briefs with the appellate courts. To register, attorneys provide identifying information including their name, address, State Bar member number, and email address. After an attorney chooses a username and password, a system-generated personal identification number (PIN) is created and sent to the attorney’s email account. The attorney uses this PIN to electronically sign and submit pleadings.
Jean Bousquet is chief information officer of the Wisconsin court system and oversees development of the court e-filing website.
Marcia Vandercook, Berkeley 1978, is circuit court legal advisor and staff to the committees that have drafted the e-filing rule and amendments.
Attorneys can give their law office staff members access to the e-filing system through a delegation process. After a staff member sets up an eCourts account, the attorney can grant that staff member authority to view the court case file, prepare documents for the attorney’s signature, and receive notice of incoming filings on that case. Attorneys can provide clients with read-only access to the court electronic file.
After registration, the attorney and his or her staff members use their eCourts accounts to log into the e-filing website. There is a four-step process for filing cases and submitting subsequent documents.
Step One: Enter Case Information
To file a new case, an attorney or staff member selects the “File a new case” link on the e-filing website. The e-filing system guides filers through a series of prompts to capture basic case information, including:
- County where case is being filed
- Case type and class code
- Party names and addresses
Step Two: Upload Filing Documents
Next, an attorney or staff member saves the documents to be filed in portable document format (PDF) (both Microsoft Word and WordPerfect provide a method for saving documents in PDF). The documents are uploaded to the e-filing site through a process similar to attaching documents to an email. The attorney or staff member assigns each document a title from a drop-down list and adds more description if needed.
Once all documents are added, the e-filing system displays a case review screen with filing and party information and a link to the electronic documents. If the documents are prepared by a staff member, they can be placed in an electronic queue for review by the attorney. After review, the attorney electronically signs the documents by entering his or her PIN and selecting the “File and pay” button. Under the proposed amendments to the e-filing rule, authorized staff members will be allowed to submit documents directly on the attorney’s behalf.
Step Three: Make Electronic Payment and Complete Filing
The e-filing system automatically calculates all fees due based on case type and payment method. The attorney or staff member can pay by credit card or electronic fund transfer. The following information is needed for electronic payment:
- Payor name and address
- Email address
- Credit card or e-check information
The electronic payment website allows filers to save payment information so the information need not be entered each time a new filing is submitted.
After payment, the appropriate clerk of circuit court is notified and processes the electronic filing. The clerk assigns a case number, authenticates the documents for service, and sends the filer an email with a link to the filed documents. Copies of the documents can be printed from the website and served. Service of process of the complaint or petition must be made by traditional means, such as personal service or U.S. mail.
The e-filing system also generates a notice to be served with the complaint, giving the defendant instructions on how to e-file on the case. E-filing is currently voluntary for both self-represented litigants and for attorneys, so parties who choose not to e-file will continue to serve and receive paper documents by traditional means. The clerk scans all paper filings to make them part of the electronic record accessible to the e-filing parties.
Step Four: Send and Receive Additional Documents
Whenever a new document is filed with the court or a court order is issued, all e-filing attorneys and staff members are notified via email. The new documents are available to view, print, or save from the e-filing website. If opposing counsel has “opted in” on the case, service of subsequent documents is accomplished through the e-filing system.
Attorneys can give their law office staff members access to the e-filing system through a delegation process.
The e-filing system also provides attorneys with a “My Cases” portal to manage their cases. This portal displays an attorney’s e-filed court cases statewide with options for viewing filed documents, filing new documents, and linking to the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (WCCA) website. The portal also provides a court calendar that displays court dates, activity type, case number, and location.
To e-file, attorneys do not have to wait to file a new case. On request, the clerk of circuit court can convert a paper court file to an electronic file by scanning all the documents filed so far. If the request is approved, the requester can “opt in” and electronically file subsequent documents.
Learn More About E-filing
The e-filing system has many benefits to attorneys. It allows attorneys to file documents outside of regular business hours and to view the entire court case file from any computer. It reduces the time staff members must spend filing and locating paper files and reduces the cost of storage, packaging, postage, and courier services.
If you would like to learn more about e-filing in the circuit courts, please contact the clerk of circuit court in the county where you file court cases or contact the WCCA website administrator at firstname.lastname@example.org.