Solo & Small Firm
Tech Report: eFiling
By Robert M. Klein
A law practice devoted to helping personal injury victims.
If you have a litigation practice, you likely know that many counties are now mandating lawsuits (and all subsequent documents) be filed through “eFiling.” This article will discuss eFiling, how it works, how to do it, along with things to know of.
As of January 2019, these counties have instituted mandatory eFiling: Butte County, Fresno County, Kern County (only civil thus far), Los Angeles County (excluding family law filing for the moment), Merced County, Monterey County, Orange County, San Diego County, San Francisco County (excluding family law for the moment), San Luis Obispo County, Santa Barbara County, Santa Clara County, Santa Cruz County, Stanislaus County, Sutter County, and Yuba County. While Ventura County has yet to adopt eFiling, it has a system entitled e-Delivery which replaced their fax filing system. It appears to be eFiling, though it is called e-Delivery. Some counties have not adopted eFiling, and documents will be printed and physically delivered to the courthouse. It is my expectation that within two or three years, all counties will adopt to eFiling.
eFiling is the simple process of taking a paper document and turning it into a PDF (portable document format). This format was developed by Adobe in the 1990s, so documents could be shared on any platform rather than being tied to Word, WordPerfect, or any other proprietary software. Adobe Reader offers a free download which enables you to view any PDF document. The steps of getting a document eFiled are relatively simple. First, you must sign up with an electronic filing service provider (EFSP). The actual documents are still the same, meaning you have a Summons, complaint, and related court mandated forms. For example, in Los Angeles County, the court requires filing of a civil case cover sheet (Judicial Council form CM-010) and a civil case coversheet addendum (which is a local Los Angeles Superior Court form). Once all these documents are completed, they must be converted into a PDF format.
Converting documents into a PDF format can be done in many ways. An eFiling service may provide this service. Adobe Professional will convert documents into a PDF format. Free sites convert documents into PDF form. For example, see www.pdfescape.com, which has a free online version. Once the documents are in a PDF format, they are uploaded to the court through an eFiling service. The Los Angeles Superior County website has a list of over 50 electronic filing service providers (for a list of eFiling services, seewww.lacourt.org/division/efiling/civil_providers.asp). The prices vary from provider to provider, though most are $5.00 to $15.00 per filing. This cost does not include the court’s fee for eFiling.
In reviewing a variety of eFiling services, I have seen a do-it-yourself option or a concierge service. The concierge service offers more handholding for an additional fee. When considering hiring an eFiling service or signing up for an eFiling service, look for those which offer a “concierge service.” For an additional fee, these providers will bookmark and paginate documents. In essence, you are hiring an eFiling service to also act as a virtual assistant.
Interestingly enough, the e-filing services file through a portal provided by Tyler Technologies, a company located in Texas. I called Tyler and discovered they also offer an eFiling solution for California that does not charge additional fees for filing through their portal. However, at the time of writing, their own website does not offer eFiling in civil cases. I am waiting to hear from Tyler with an explanation. When eFiling a complaint, the group of documents are separated rather than stapled together as one entire document. For example, the courts require that the complaint be uploaded as a separate document, the Summons is uploaded as a separate document and the Civil Case Coversheet be uploaded as a separate document. The court defines this as a filing and envelope of documents as one document. This separation also applies when filing motions with exhibits and declarations. In addition, documents must be properly bookmarked.
There are many new rules on efiling. For example, when filing a motion or other hearing, the filer must reserve a court date prior to e-filing. Some documents are exempt from e-filing such as a peremptory challenge or trial exhibits. Printed courtesy copies may also be required. Look at the local rules to see what is or is not required.
As there are so many eFiling providers, it would be nice to gathering information on how they are working. Which providers provide better service, or have better support, or provide some other unique service. I encourage you to contact me based on any experience you have had with eFiling services. It would be nice for all of us to learn based on our collective experience rather than our individual experience.
Feel free to reach out to me at Robert@rkleinlaw.com.