|Oregon State Bar Bulletin JUNE 2012|
Better Access, Better Information and Better Outcomes are on the Way
By David Factor
Oregon eCourt will “go live” in the first trial court in June, the beginning of an historic transition to electronic case processing in Oregon’s state trial courts. Oregon’s appellate courts have had a fully operational eCourt system since 2011. This update discusses how the pilot court process will work, how the Oregon Judicial Department plans to expand eCourt into other circuit courts, ongoing work with court rules, and other related Oregon eCourt activities.
The Odyssey software system will start operating in Yamhill County Circuit Court on June 4, with full implementation in Yamhill County and statewide being phased in over time. Attorneys and other litigants will not notice changes immediately but will quickly see changes in the weeks and months ahead as eFiling becomes available and more court information and, eventually, documents become available online. When fully implemented, Odyssey will allow Oregonians to electronically file and serve documents, pay fees online and obtain online access to many court documents.
What to Expect
The Yamhill County installation will be the first pilot of the Odyssey system in Oregon. Initial work will focus on implementing the internal case management and content management parts of the system to allow electronic case processing by the court. Within a few weeks, implementation will expand to include piloting the eFiling system with a small group of law firms practicing in the Yamhill Circuit Court, then opening eFiling to all attorneys and “professional filers,” such as landlords for forcible entry and detainer cases and debt collection firms for small claims cases.
All cases will be internally processed by the court electronically — regardless of whether the case is eFiled — but eFiling will be introduced gradually to promote a successful transition.
Self guided online registration and training opportunities for eFiling will be available. These will include user guides, frequently asked questions (FAQs) and a help system.
Oregon eCourt Rollout
After running in Yamhill County, the Odyssey system will be evaluated and adjusted as needed, then installed in Crook, Jefferson and Linn Counties in December 2012 and in Jackson County in March 2013. A phased deployment of the Odyssey system in Multnomah County is scheduled to begin in June 2013. The timing of installations beyond that schedule depends on funding decisions made by the legislature in 2013.
The 2012 legislature approved continuing Oregon eCourt funding after OJD met all of its deliverables under an agreement between legislative leadership and the chief justice, and hearing that the Odyssey system has been successfully implemented in six states, and in major metropolitan courts in Dallas, Miami, Las Vegas and other locations.
Court Rule Development
Three sets of court rules will be changed by Chief Justice Order (CJO) in June to accommodate immediate Oregon eCourt changes. The Oregon eCourt Law and Policy Work Group will be revising separate Uniform Trial Court Rule (UTCR) changes (discussed in the December Bulletin) that will govern future remote electronic access to case file documents.
Three separate CJOs are being prepared to implement changes in UTCRs and Yamhill County Circuit Court Supplementary Local Rules (SLRs) to adapt to the electronic work environment. All three CJOs will take effect in June, but will cover different types of rule changes.
The first CJO will approve a standardized set of SLRs that are intended to be adopted by each circuit court as the Odyssey system is installed in that court. The new chapter of these SLRs will be available at each local court’s website, all of which can be accessed at http://courts.oregon.gov/OJD/. The SLRs will cover a variety of subjects, including electronic court notifications, electronic signatures, eliminating paper-copy and stamped-envelope requirements, and timing for ex parte submissions.
The second CJO will update a variety of UTCRs to avoid exclusive application of current rules to a paper-based environment. For example, references to “piece of paper” and “letter” will be changed to “document.” These changes generally are considered to be conforming amendments and not substantive changes in process. This CJO and UTCRs will be available at the UTCR website: http://courts.oregon.gov/OJD/programs/utcr/utcrrules.page?
The third and final CJO in this series will adopt several amendments to UTCR 21 (filing and service by electronic means) to ensure that these rules are consistent with Oregon eCourt system functionality. That order and rules also will be available on the UTCR website.
Remote electronic access of court documents will not be part of the initial Yamhill County deployment, and the Oregon eCourt Law and Policy Work Group is continuing its work on recommending new and amended UTCRs to govern access, including a new UTCR Chapter 22. OJD’s update in the December 2011 Bulletin discussed proposed new and amended UTCRs that would apply to segregating protected personal information and how confidential or sealed documents could be accessed. The work group is revising its proposals, based on feedback from the UTCR comment process and feedback on how the proposed rules would be implemented in the Odyssey system. The revised rules will be developed and presented to the Oregon eCourt governance structure, the OJD-OSB eCourt Task Force and the UTCR rule adoption process in coming months. The timeline for remote electronic access to case file documents is being developed consistent with the adoption of the UTCR Chapter 22.
Other eCourt Progress
ePay. People who owe fines or need to make monthly payments to Oregon circuit courts can now do so online. OJD has installed an ePay system in every circuit court. Yamhill County ePay will begin shortly after the installation of the Odyssey system. To date the ePay system has received more than $1.1 million from more than 13,780 payments, since the first court started accepting payment in mid-November 2011. Each look-up and payment reflects an action that court staff does not have to take. For more information, go to http://courts.oregon.gov/OJD/OnlineServices/ePay/index.page?
eCitation. Circuit courts and the Oregon State Police are saving significant amounts of time by processing citations electronically. OSP troopers in all 36 counties now electronically transmit violations to circuit courts, where they are e-filed. The electronic processing saves court staff time from data entry, eliminates the opportunity for data entry errors in these matters, and allows state troopers to spend more time on patrol and less time doing paperwork. Oregon’s trial courts have processed almost 15,000 eCitations over the last six months.
The Oregon eCourt Program has been years in the conception and planning stages. OJD appreciates the support and assistance by Oregon State Bar members and is pleased to be on the verge of implementing the Odyssey system, which will deliver the promise of Oregon eCourt: Better access, better information and better outcomes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Factor is staff counsel, Office of Education, Training and Outreach of the Oregon Judicial Department.
© 2012 David Factor