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Colorado courts to accept electronic filings

The Western state signs a contract with JusticeLink of Dallas to provide the technology necessary to accept electronic filings.

Colorado courts will soon accept electronic filings, in one of the most ambitious plans to date to manage the growing mountain of information confronting clerks.

The state last week signed a contract with JusticeLink of Dallas to provide the technology necessary to accept electronic filings, an official from the state's Judicial arm said.

Under the deal, three of the state's courts will start accepting electronic filings by the end of November, said Bob Roper, director of information services for the Colorado Judicial Department. By the end of 2000, Roper said, all state courts will be online.

What's more, the electronic system will allow lawyers to file initial complaints and permit judges to issue court orders, features not available in the handful of courts that have so far permitted some form of electronic filing.

"This is the first time that it will be a complete statewide implementation, will deal with all case types, and will include the initial case filings," said Roper. "It's a pretty aggressive roll-out schedule for a project of this magnitude."

As the number of cases continues to grow, courts are finding it tougher to store and manage the volumes of documents in their possession. Moving to an electronic system is a tempting solution, but one that introduces new challenges.

For instance, officials must set new ground rules for authenticating electronic filings, since it is impossible to affix a traditional signature to them. Privacy advocates also worry that electronic filings can be scanned and indexed, allowing an individual's divorce, parking tickets, and other legal matters to be cross-referenced in a way never before possible.

Several states, including Texas and California, have so far led the move to accept electronic case filings. Colorado, however, is the only state to move all its courts to an electronic system, said Jeff Jones, a spokesman for JusticeLink.