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Connecticut’s state courts will allow lawyers and pro se litigants to file court documents over the Internet on a limited basis beginning July 1. It’s the first step toward making all the courts’ public documents electronically accessible in courthouses and law libraries around the state. For Connecticut lawyers with juris ID numbers and a password, the goal is to have every public document in the court system at their computer-keypad fingertips at any time, day or night. Initially, e-filing will be an option only in a small fraction of cases: automobile accident suits where only personal property damage is claimed; ice and snow slip-and-fall cases; and other defective premises suits, according to Joseph D. D’Alesio, executive director of Superior Court Operations. Court officials first want to test their capability of accepting electronic filings on a limited basis. But, as D’Alesio told the Connecticut Bar Association’s House of Delegates, the plan is to allow lawyers to file almost any document in any case electronically within the next couple of years. Both D’Alesio and Chief Court Administrator Joseph H. Pellegrino are brimming with enthusiasm over the potential for increased efficiencies and conveniences. “It will revolutionize the way we do business,” D’Alesio promised CBA delegates. The recent wave of budget cutbacks and early retirements made labor-saving strategies a necessity, Pellegrino said. But besides cutting costs, electronic files are bound to save sweat and aggravation. As it is now, clerks fill angular metal “buckets” with up to 150 case files, before lugging them to courtrooms, where only a few may actually be handled. When the thousands of these files are returned at night, some files go missing-in-action indefinitely — squirreled away by judges, law clerks, or others. But when filing becomes digital, any number of people will be able to access documents simultaneously at any time, without troubling a clerk to lift a finger. “This is a no-brainer,” Pellegrino proclaimed. “We have this technology. We’ve got to use it!” The two top court administrators said they knew the shift to e-filing was just a matter of time. But when? The answer came last June, at the CBA’s annual meeting in New Haven. Pellegrino and D’Alesio were making their separate ways around a room full of vendors and exhibits. “We both reached the booth at the same time, different directions,” recalled Pellegrino. There, Kevin F. Rowe, the federal courts’ chief clerk in Connecticut, and his staff were explaining their plans to shift to electronic document-filing in 2004. “That was the time when it clicked,” said Pellegrino. Early on, the task seemed daunting. “We thought it would be next to impossible,” said D’Alesio. “But we didn’t realize how far along we were. We had a lot of the pieces in place already.” The biggest piece is the Judicial Branch’s award-winning Web site, which allows lawyers to enter the system to update short calendar markings. Once e-filing begins this summer, clerks will continue to take paper documents in cases where court papers can be sent over the Internet. They will just scan in paper documents and add them to the computer case file. Pro se litigants without juris numbers will have to file the original complaint in person. But once they get ID numbers, they too can examine or file papers by computer in their own cases. An undetermined number of computers will be installed in courthouses around the state for public use, where the press and other members of the public can call up e-files in that or any other state courthouse. D’Alesio emphasized that the system is designed to be flexible and easy for lawyers and the public to use — regardless of computer proficiency.

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