In an effort to increase efficiency and improve the service of trial courts, technological advances are being implemented in the state of Michigan. One of these advances is the introduction of e-filing which will allow litigants to electronically file documents without having to travel to a courthouse. In this episode of On Balance, host Tish Vincent talks to Mary Roush and David Leasure about the statewide e-filing initiative that the state is working on with ImageSoft in order to bring e-filing to the Michigan Courts. Together, they discuss the benefits of e-filing, how they chose ImageSoft, and how the software works.
Mary Roush is the project manager of the statewide e-filing initiative.
David Leasure is the product owner of TrueFiling, a product of ImageSoft.
State Bar of Michigan: On Balance Podcast
Bringing E-filing to Michigan Courts with ImageSoft
Intro: Welcome to State Bar of Michigan’s On Balance Podcast, where we talk about practice management and lawyer wellness for a thriving law practice with your hosts JoAnn Hathaway and Tish Vincent, here on Legal Talk Network.
Take it away ladies.
Tish Vincent: Hello and welcome to another edition of the State Bar of Michigan: On Balance Podcast on Legal Talk Network. This is Tish Vincent. I am the Program Administrator for the Lawyers and Judges Assistance Program at the State Bar of Michigan.
We are recording today’s show at the NEXT Conference in Detroit, Michigan. Joining us now we have Mary Roush and Dave Leasure, and before we get started, please tell us a little bit about yourselves and let’s start with you, Mary.
Mary Roush: Hi. I am Mary Roush with the State Court Administrative Office and I am the Project Manager over the E-filing Project, the statewide initiative that we are working with ImageSoft on.
David Leasure: And I am Dave Leasure. I work for a company called ImageSoft and I am the Product Owner of TrueFiling, which has been sold to the State of Michigan to be used as their MiFILE platform.
Tish Vincent: Well, thank you for joining us today. We are here to discuss the statewide E-filing initiative. So Mary, why don’t you start by kind of giving us a summary or an overview of that and what’s entailed and you spoke about at the conference here.
Mary Roush: Sure. So essentially we started E-filing in Michigan back in 2007 when the Oakland Circuit Court approached the Michigan Supreme Court asking for permission to pilot an E-filing program. After Oakland, the additional courts approached the Michigan Supreme Court wanting to do the same. So at this juncture we have five courts within the state that currently have an E-filing program.
And really we spent some time back in 2014 going through a request for information, which allowed us to gather more information about what the funding was going to be that was required and went through the legislative activities required in order to collect that funding, enable that funding, enacted that funding in 2016, so that we could begin the process.
A request for proposal was issued back in August of 2016 in conjunction with Gartner Consulting, putting together all the requirements for the statewide system and working really in conjunction with the courts and with various stakeholders across the state. So certainly spent some time gathering all the details and determining what was going to be needed for the statewide program.
Once we had published that request for proposal and we received responses, we again reached out to important stakeholders across the state to help us evaluate the proposals received and determine who is going to be the best vendor that would be able to meet the needs of our Michigan Trial Courts. And we ultimately determined that was going to be ImageSoft, and we signed a contract with ImageSoft on May 1 of 2017 and have continued to work very hard at really the first phase of our project, which is to take the five pilot courts that are currently E-filing today and convert them over to the statewide system.
We see E-filing as providing multiple benefits. It will provide benefits to both the filers as well as the courts themselves, and for the filers, it really is going to provide an opportunity for them to file really from anywhere at any time. They will also have the ability to have access to their documents, again, real-time access to those documents that they have filed or been served at any point in time. And for the courts it gives instant access for them as well and it really provides an opportunity for more efficient operations. So we see this as really a great move in the State of Michigan, bringing the courts, both the courts and the filers to a new place on the technology front.
Tish Vincent: Thank you very much. That’s very interesting. I imagine it’s going to take some time to implement it across the state, a lot of education of attorneys and in courts and judges.
Mary Roush: Very much so, very much so. It is a very large, a very complex project. We have got over 240 courts that we are going to be implementing across the state, so absolutely, it’s going to be a challenge.
And one of the things that we are doing to kind of make this a little bit more manageable is to break it out in chunks. So instead of looking at it as a, my goodness, we have a major project we have got to implement to all these different courts; we are saying, okay, there’s a few different phases that we will be working through.
So the first phase is really getting those pilot courts implemented and we are working to get them implemented by the end of the year. In the meantime, we are also working on a development of a standard solution, and as we have already stated, this is a very complex, very large project that we are working on to implement all these courts, and while we recognize that all the courts operate a little bit differently across the state, in order to implement them in a timely fashion we are going to have to develop a standard solution, so that it simplifies things.
Tish Vincent: Yes, I can imagine that might be a little challenging.
Mary Roush: Yes, yes, and the third and final phase is really expanding across the state, so getting into the Trial Court.
Tish Vincent: Yes, to every nook and cranny, so to speak. Are there other states that have implemented E-filing at this level?
Mary Roush: There are other states that have implemented E-filing and that continue to work towards implementing E-filing. One thing that was a decision that was made early on in the State of Michigan is in looking at other programs that states have implemented we said, okay, in order to ensure the success of the program here what we need to do is we need to implement not only E-filing, but we need behind the scenes a document management system that can be used by the courts.
So essentially once the filers submit those documents to the court, there’s a way for those courts to take those documents and continue that electronic process by routing them through the document management system.
Tish Vincent: Absolutely, I can see how that would be necessary, and you work at the State Court Administrative Office, so I suppose that Office is working on this with the courts in the state to change or —
Mary Roush: Absolutely, absolutely. So one thing that we have recognized with this project is that the State Court Administrative Office cannot make all these decisions on their own, so we have to be working with our various stakeholders, that includes the staff at the courts as well as the filers across the state, so that will be the attorneys and also those various self-help centers that serve the pro se litigants.
Tish Vincent: Absolutely. It’s very interesting, very huge undertaking, but fascinating. You can imagine when it’s implemented it will really streamline things significantly.
Mary Roush: That is our goal.
Tish Vincent: Absolutely. Well Dave, can you share with us your thoughts on this matter and what you have provided to the State Court Administrative Office?
David Leasure: Yeah, so ImageSoft’s product TrueFiling has been used in three pilot courts already in the State of Michigan; Macomb, Grand Traverse, and Ottawa County. And part of this whole project, it’s been very exciting to get more input from all of our courts and work with Wayne and Oakland as the other E-filing courts in Michigan just to see what their process is all worth so we can kind of go in and see all the areas where we could improve. And even in our own product how we could help the filing community really with an easy process, so they can fire their documents, so that they are not wasting time with extra steps and really getting them in and out as soon as they can, while giving them all the information that they need at the same time.
Tish Vincent: Yes. And from the conversations that were had during the presentation, it sounds like you are continually involved in improving it as things are recognized.
David Leasure: Yeah. As part of the RFP process the team took a look at our current system and the best areas where it could be improved, and we have a list of six enhancements that will be in place the start of Wave 1, when Macomb and Wayne and Oakland go live with the MiFILE system, and over the next two or three years we have about 100 other really nice enhancements that we will be able to provide the filing community. And as we go even on top of those 100, we will still be constantly looking at the system and seeing where we can improve it.
Tish Vincent: It’s very interesting, thank you. Some questions that I heard this morning in your presentation, I would like to ask for our listeners to hear your answer. One of the questions was, will every court need to have a website to implement the E-filings?
Mary Roush: The courts will not be required to have their own website. We do expect that the State Court Administrative Office website, the One Court of Justice website will be a mechanism that can be used to communicate information to the filers across the state if those courts do not have their own website available.
Tish Vincent: Very good. Thank you.
David Leasure: And one nice thing about the MiFILE application is that no matter what court you are going to be filing to, as long as the court is live on MiFILE, there will be one centralized location that you can access, so the filing community doesn’t have to search for the court’s website to find where they have to file, they can just access the link that is shared throughout the state and they can file to any of the courts that they need to file to. So it’s one login, one password, less things they have to keep track of in one centralized location to file documents anywhere.
Tish Vincent: So less complexity, they don’t have to worry about that, that’s been built into the system that you have designed, that’s excellent.
David Leasure: Yeah.
Tish Vincent: Another question someone had was if you file these documents and they are in the cloud, would other people have access to them? I would like to hear that answer for our listeners today too.
Mary Roush: Right. And as part of the statewide E-filing initiative, it is not included in the scope to provide public access to documents across the state, so really the attorneys will have access to documents that they have filed and that they have been served as well, but it is not providing public access across the state as a part of this program.
Tish Vincent: So that is a secure situation and people don’t have to worry about that.
Mary Roush: Correct.
Tish Vincent: Well, excellent. Well, it looks like we have reached the end of our program. I want to thank Mary and Dave for joining us today. If our listeners have questions or wish to follow up with you, how can they reach you; I will ask Mary first.
Mary Roush: We actually have an email address that can be utilized for any questions that you have regarding the E-filing program. That email address is HYPERLINK “[email protected]” [email protected].
Tish Vincent: Thank you. And Dave.
David Leasure: And from my side, I am sure our filing community is going to have questions about the application. They are going to want to know what it can do. We always have support available for the application. You can contact HYPERLINK “mailto:[email protected]” [email protected] and you can really ask us any questions about the application that you want. And even when we go live with all these courts if you have questions about how to use it, how to sign up, anything that you need, you can really reach out to us and we will be available for you.
Tish Vincent: Thank you. This has been another edition of the State Bar of Michigan: On Balance Podcast. I am Tish Vincent. Until next time, thank you for listening.
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