I write in response to the article dated Dec. 10, 2013, concerning the first electronically filed lawsuit in Marion County. The article contains certain statements and assertions which require response.
The Chief Justice said "Kanawha County doesn't have the computer system in place that makes the transition on a quick basis . . ."
Kanawha County is not a part of the electronic filing pilot project because it utilizes the "majority software" - that is the case docketing software in use in the majority (37) of counties. The pilot counties (14) utilize the minority software programming. The remaining counties utilize other software. Assuming the electronic filing pilot is successful, the majority of the state's counties will have to convert to the minority software to enable e-filing.
The article also quoted the Chief Justice as saying " . . . Kanawha County doesn't have the documents in an electronic format." I believe the Chief Justice is referring to the Supreme Court's scanning initiative, which is supposed to financially support, through paid access to court documents, the e-filing project.
Currently, Kanawha County scans all civil case complaints, answers and orders, all domestic relation orders and all criminal case documents. As a result, there are hundreds of thousands of documents in an electronic format.
The article says the court established "this program" because of the mistaken release of an inmate. While the inadvertent release was the purported catalyst for the e-filing system, it is unclear how an e-filing system specifically addresses this concern.
In 2008, the Kanawha County Circuit Clerk's Office, in conjunction with the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, became the pilot county and launched electronic filing in personal injury asbestos and other mass litigation cases. With five years of operational experience and millions of documents filed electronically, Kanawha County has a genuine appreciation and understanding of e-filing. The convenience to lawyers, judges and litigants is real, as are the savings to circuit clerks in terms of the burden of paper processing and storage.
In the article, the Chief Justice said Kanawha County would be among the last to be brought online. When the pilot is completed, Kanawha County stands ready.
Cathy S. Gatson
Kanawha Circuit Clerk