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Colorado’s court system is perhaps closer than any other to putting bicycle messengers out of work — and doing away with those hated 5 p.m. filing deadlines. Colorado last month launched the first statewide e-filing initiative in the country. If all goes according to plan, by the end of January any attorney in the country will be able to submit filings through the Web to Colorado state courts. The initiative hasn’t yet taken the state by storm. Only eight of Colorado’s 63 counties have gone live with the fledgling system. A scant 200 or so attorneys have signed up. Still, if the six-month statewide rollout is successful, a bona fide Rocky Mountain high is liable to spread throughout the state’s legal community. “Locally, this is going to transform the way Colorado attorneys practice,” predicts Russel Murray III, a sole practitioner in Arapahoe County, one of the counties using the platform. Murray was the first attorney to submit filings through the system. “It was unbelievably simple,” he says. “It’s really not much more complicated than dragging and clicking with your computer mouse.” Well, maybe slightly more complicated. An attorney first must register with JusticeLink, an e-filing platform owned by the Bellevue, Wash.-based company CourtLink. Subscribing attorneys agree to pay 10 cents for every page filed. To submit filings, a lawyer simply downloads the document to the JusticeLink Web site. If the document is not already in Adobe Acrobat’s PDF format, JusticeLink automatically converts it from Word, WordPerfect or whatever program was used to create it. The filer is sent a receipt acknowledging the time and date the filing was submitted — a feature likely to win huge points with the lawyers. “In my mind, it’s the best thing about the platform,” says Murray. “It means you don’t have to worry whether a courier made it to the court on time.” As long as a document is filed by 11:59 p.m., the litigant is credited for having filed on that calendar day. “We were definitely looking to save lawyers some frustration,” says Kenneth Stuart, the chief judge of the state’s 18th Judicial District, which covers five counties using the system. “It’s a way to stay open 24 hours a day.” For an additional 10 cents per page distributed, JusticeLink will also serve the pleading on other parties. It notifies them by e-mail, of course. The cost could add up, but so far, JusticeLink’s price isn’t scaring anybody away. “It’s unbelievably cost-effective,” says Rose Zapor, of Denver’s Read & Zapor L.L.C. “We’re saving on couriers, messengers, paper, copies, you name it.” Because the lawyers foot JusticeLink’s bill, the Colorado court system is basically riding along for free. All filed documents are automatically downloaded into the state’s centralized case management system, so the court’s document repository gets filled without the burden of copy machines, staplers or paper cuts. “This has been so incredibly helpful,” says Stuart. “It’s really improving our own internal operations at both the state and local levels.” Stuart is one of the state’s pioneers in e-filing. His district used another e-filing platform three years ago. The judge and his colleagues liked it enough to urge the Colorado state court administration to adopt e-filing statewide. In late 1998, the state drew up a request for proposal, and the bid was ultimately won by JusticeLink. (CourtLink and JusticeLink merged early last year.) “We were incredibly impressed by the Colorado proposal,” says Henry Givray, CourtLink’s chairman. “It was ambitious, comprehensive and showed they really wanted to lead the pack.” According to Givray, Colorado was helped by the fact that it already had a centralized case management system. “If it hadn’t, we’d have been forced to take a much more piecemeal, court- by-court approach,” he says. Of course, CourtLink has more work to do. For example, lawyers can’t submit documents under seal through JusticeLink. The company does not yet have a way to protect them. And then there’s the participation problem. So far, the response has been lukewarm. But Bob Roper, the chief information officer for the Colorado state courts, has a simple explanation. “It’s like any new technology — at first, people need encouragement and a little hand-holding,” he says. But that’s nothing CourtLink hasn’t prepared for. The company will begin a huge, statewide marketing push in a few weeks. Bad news for the guys on bikes. For more about Colorado’s initiative, go to the Colorado courts’ site, at http://www.courts.state.co.us/iis/iisproj.htm. JusticeLink’s site is located at http://www.justicelink.com/.

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