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Electronic Filing System Brings New Order to N.C. Courts

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RALEIGH — If you have to deal with an attorney you may find your bill a little lower thanks to technology and the Internet. TheNorth Carolina Supreme Courtis the first in the nation to allow law firms to file briefs and other documents electronically.

The court has been working on the system withIBMfor more than a year and says it holds promise for saving time and money.

The State Supreme Court andCourt of Appealsgo through mountains of paper each year; attorneys and the courts pay out thousands of dollars in postage. That is all changing with a program called e-court, which allows the information to be accessed by computer.

Here is how e-court works: lawyers type a brief and, after registering with e-court, send the brief and associated documents to the court over the Internet.

Attorney Liz Riley was one of the first to use the system.

"I didn't have to worry about sending a courier to file something for me. I didn't have to charge anybody for that, would not have to charge any client for filing something," she says.

While e-court is available now, attorneys and their staffs must be trained. Major advantages are speed and fairness.

"It'll put the people who are practicing in Cherokee and Manteo in the same position as one practicing across the street," says Christie Cameron, N.C. Supreme Court clerk.

Legal secretaries put paper briefs together most every day. Because they are mailed or carried by hand, the papers may not be as secure as electronically filed briefs.

"We've verified ahead of time who it is that registered with us and give us a password that's unique for that attorney," says Bob Northrup, director of Information Services.

Because legal briefs are public documents, law school students, media and the public can read them on the Supreme Court Web site.

Other court systems around the country are interested in e-court and may adopt the program in the hope of being more efficient.

"It may not be a huge savings but it will save time and money to a lawyer which means you don't charge a client for it anymore," says Riley.

There is no estimate of how much money the court system and attorneys might save with e-court. The N.C. Supreme Court is firmly behind the electronic filing system and is pushing for its acceptance.

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Tom Lawrence, Reporter
Gil Hollingsworth, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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