The Appellate Division is readying an electronic filing system for appeals and motions, to be available to public attorneys next month and to all attorneys by the fall.

Known as eDATA, it will allow attorneys to initiate appeals and submit motions and associated documents from any computer with Internet access. They will receive email confirmations that their documents have been filed.

Appellate Division Clerk Joseph Orlando says he expects that at least 30 percent of the court’s annual caseload of 6,500 will be filed electronically within a year.

The eDATA system will be activated in stages. The Office of the Public Defender, which brings about 2,000 appeals a year, will be able to e-file starting June 1, along with the Office of the Attorney General and county prosecutors’ offices.

They will be followed this summer by civil appeals and motions from the public defender, attorney general and the Office of the Law Guardian.

In late summer, attorneys with an account in the Judiciary Attorney Charge System (JACS) will be invited to use e-filing for criminal or civil appeals or motions. Finally, in the fall, attorneys without a JACS account will be able to use the system for any appeals or motions and pay with a credit card.

E-filing will remain optional in deference to attorneys who are not Internet-savvy and to prisoner-litigants and unrepresented people who might not have access to computers. "We have to accommodate a lot of different generational comfort levels — some people are more comfortable with paper," Orlando says.

Appellate Division staff are also preparing to accept payment of fees by electronic check at some later date, he says.

Use of eDATA requires an Internet connection and is compatible with the Google Chrome, Mozilla FireFox, Opera, Safari and Windows Internet Explorer browsers. Documents are uploaded to eDATA in a PDF format. Each attorney must provide an identification number and email address next to his or her name.

Attorneys representing respondents also may file documents using eDATA if the appeal was filed electronically. In those cases, each document will be available to all parties, eliminating the need to serve an adversary with papers by mail, Orlando says.

In addition, the system streamlines case management by automatically sending messages by email, rather than the Postal Service, to lawyers who miss deadlines or make incomplete submissions, he says.

Lawyers can use the eDATA system as an archive of documents in their appellate cases, which is particularly helpful to a lawyer whose office is destroyed in a natural disaster, Orlando says.

In cases where e-filing is used, documents filed under seal would still be submitted in paper form to the court, one for each judge, clearly marked for confidential use to ensure such items are seen only by judges. Orlando says that is because the court’s current case processing system permits sealing an entire case but not a single document, says Orlando.

The Supreme Court relaxed and modified court rules to permit electronic filing in the Appellate Division.

Among them are R. 2:5-1(a), to allow that service of documents on other parties in the case may be made by an email message providing a link to the documents, and R. 2:5-3(a), to provide that the completion and submission of a transcript request to the court reporter be made through the eDATA system.

Appellate Division staff have conducted eDATA presentations before the public defender, attorney general and prosecutors’ offices and have fine-tuned the system based on feedback received, Orlando says.

Electronic filing of appeals would follow three other electronic filing systems already in use in the state’s courts — the Judiciary Electronic Filing System (JEFIS) in Special Civil Part, JEFIS-Foreclosure, and the municipal courts’ Automated Traffic System/Automated Complaint System.

The JEFIS system is mandatory in Special Civil cases for law firms that file more than 400 so-called DC docket cases a year, where the amount at issue is less than $15,000 and does not stem from a small claim or landlord-tenant action.