by Dean E. Merritt, Esq., Northeast Court Account Manager, File & ServeXpress
Encumbered by dwindling staffs and outdated processes, many courts today are finding it difficult to provide the services demanded of them. Technology offers hope for a solution, but with shrinking budgets, funding can be a challenge.
In this two-part series, I will be discussing four ways you can fund your e-Filing system, even if your court, like so many, is faced with financial pressures.
Ironically for many courts, budget constraints have made e-Filing a necessity and presented a major roadblock at the same time.
Clerks’ offices are usually understaffed, inundated with paperwork and long wait lines and hampered by manual payment processes, with funding only being allocated to the most critical projects. To automate business processes and implement solutions such as e-Filing, courts will need to find ways to fund needed technology.
For courts struggling to balance the need to provide more services with less funding and smaller staffs, technology offers solutions; it can help eliminate inefficient, paper-driven processes, reduce labor-intensive tasks, automate financial procedures and offer equal access to justice.
I’m preaching to the choir, so if you want to bring innovative solutions to your court and are experiencing budget constraints or shortfalls, consider some of the options our clients have implemented. Not only do they offer access to justice, they also remove cost as a roadblock for e-Filing implementation.
When making decisions about how to implement e-Filing in your jurisdiction, you will want to consider the issues of budget and cost recovery. They’re critical factors. Below, I’ve outlined two examples of cost recovery methods courts are using today, with two more to follow in part two of this series. Some jurisdictions have implemented a combination of these; it’s up to you and your jurisdiction to decide what’s the right choice for you.
In this, the most common fee structure, constituents pay a nominal transactional fee, typically $5-$13 per transaction. Courts can often implement this model for free, while filers replace paper and delivery costs with an e-Filing fee. This model allows for immediate implementation of the e-Filing system; meanwhile, the court has the option of using the fees to fund other projects, such as CMS integration work, at a future time.
The transactional model works best when the court partners with a vendor vs. buying or building in-house; the vendor provides maintenance, marketing, training and support.
Some courts have chosen to increase statutory fees for certain document types to create funds they can use to procure and support technology improvements. The traditional statutory filing fees can be raised moderately to cover the cost of implementing technology programs such as e-Filing. Courts can still use a vendor in this situation, especially if the vendor is collecting the statutory fees and they can be shared in an agreed-upon fashion.
In part 2 of this series, I’ll be talking about two more options you can use to fund your court’s e-Filing system, the self-funded option and the ancillary fees model. The self-funded option is feasible under the right circumstances, and the ancillary fees model offers some very effective ways courts can fund e-Filing systems. For a more indepth report, download the latest e-Book from File & ServeXpress: 4 Affordable e-Filing Cost Recovery Models.