COURT E-FILE: Polk County Makes Switch To Paperless

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Iowa's District Court system is going paperless.  It started with two counties in 2010.  Last year, more than a dozen came online and Tuesday, Polk County began making the switch.

“We use computers to save time and organize and that’s what the court system is doing,” says Drake Legal Clinic Executive Director Jerry Foxhoven.

Polk County is starting in Small Claims Court with the new paperless system. 

“When people come in, they now have to register a file electronically,” says supervisor Kristy Rasmussen. 

People can now file claims anywhere, anytime.  The state’s e-Filing system is designed to streamline the process.

“I’m always looking for files.  I’m always looking for lost, loose papers, maybe mis-filed or something,” says Rasmussen.

After working out kinks in Small Claims Court, Polk County will move on to civil, criminal then finally juvenile cases.  They should all be online by the end of the year. 

“Lay people, at first are scared of it, and frankly so are older lawyers, scared of it at first.  They think oh, this is going to be a mess,” says Foxhoven.

Foxhoven says the system is truly “user friendly” and any concerns will be overshadowed by the convenience of going paperless.

“Particularly in rural counties, you don`t have to travel to the county seat just to file something and so in the end that saves attorney fees if you have an attorney, it saves travel time, missing work and so forth,” he says. 

The state tested the Electronic Document Management System in 14 counties.  Another 30 will go paperless this year.  To date, more than 189,000 cases have been e-Filed statewide.

On the first day in Polk County, clerks say they won`t miss the old system.

“A lot of paper cuts, file cuts, yes,” says Rasmussen.

The only downside is not being able to interact with the public.

“We`re going to miss seeing the public,” she says. 

You can still file in person at Small Claims Court.  Clerks will be on hand to help people during the transition.  The switch to the Electronic Document Management System will cost the state about $19 million.