by Dean E. Merritt, Esq., Northeast Court Account Manager, File & ServeXpress
In my previous post, I mentioned the challenges faced by many courts overburdened by low budgets and inadequate staffing. I discussed two options, Transactional Fees and Statutory Fees, you can consider as you look for the means to fund your court’s e-Filing system. Today, let’s talk about two more options – the Self-Funded Option and the Ancillary Fees Model.
The Self-Funded Option
This option has become less common as courts struggle to obtain additional government funding, but even so, it’s a feasible way to pay for e-Filing if state or local government judiciaries have funds to allocate. If general revenue funds are available, the court can outsource the e-Filing solution to a vendor. Although this model is increasingly rare, it is worth highlighting as it is sometimes used in conjunction with the other methods discussed here.
The Ancillary Fees Model
This is one of the more creative ways you can fund e-Filing. You can do it by implementing various fees that don’t place undue burdens on filers. The methods detailed below are some of the most equitable and effective ways we’ve seen courts use to fund e-Filing solutions.
Search and Document Purchase Fees – The court charges a fee to run searches in cases where the requesting firm or individual is not involved. Instead of a photocopying fee, a document purchase fee can be charged and invoiced electronically.
Information searches once involved going to the courthouse and requesting a folder from the clerk. Now that the information is online, it’s almost too accessible. Even so, search fees can be structured to offer two advantages:
1) A way to fund e-Filing
2) An obvious security advantage: to discourage widespread data mining, individuals with no legitimate need can be kept from browsing case files. Most users who have a genuine need or business reason to perform searches are willing to pay a reasonable fee, and the court can still provide a free public access terminal for searching and viewing files at the courthouse.
Per-Page Filing Fees – Judges often prefer a nominal per-page fee, as this tends to discourage attorneys from filing lengthy documents and briefs. Some courts charge a nominal fee of $1 per page to recover the cost of time spent reading and evaluating lengthy pleadings.
Recurring Case Fee – The concept of a recurring case fee usually relates to cases with high filing volume. When a statutory court fee is collected at the time a complaint is filed, the fee only pays for the first ‘x’ number of pleadings filed (50, for example), with a recurring fee charged to the plaintiff every time the filing volume of a case reaches a threshold such as 50, 100, 150, etc., pleadings. In turn, the court charges the parties additional fees for larger cases that are a greater burden on the court’s resources.
Even when budgets contain no special allocation for e-Filing, these fee structures offer courts and filers fair options and can even reduce the support burden on court staff. E-Filing helps courts maximize resources and reduce staff workloads, freeing up employees to focus on other key functions.
If you are looking to leverage the power of technology to make your court’s day-to-day work processes more efficient, e-Filing is the solution. Chances are one of these four funding options will be the right one for you. If you are interested in learning more, visit the File & ServeXpress website for a complete report on 4 Affordable E-Filing Cost Recovery Models.