TO: Joint Procedure Committee
FROM: Mike Hagburg
DATE: September 10, 2012
RE: Order 16, N.D.Sup.Ct.Admin.O., Electronic Filing in the District Courts
The Supreme Court amended Administrative Order 16 effective July 1. The amendments consolidate the court's orders on district court electronic filing in one place. In addition, they make e-filing and e-service mandatory for attorneys in district court effective April 1, 2013.
The Chair has asked that the committee review the amendments to Order 16. In addition, several issues have been raised in the wake of the amendments that the committee may wish to discuss.
1. AO16 specifically authorizes attorneys and parties to electronically sign documents filed with the court. The Court Administrator has inquired whether court reporters may electronically sign transcripts. The Ward County State's Attorney has inquired whether judges have authority electronically sign orders and warrants. The Odyssey working group has reviewed this issue and decided that electronically signed documents should be accepted from court reporters and judges. An amendment is attached to extend the AO16 e-signature authorization to anyone who electronically files documents.
2. When a document is submitted for filing and service to Odyssey, it is reviewed for proper form by the clerk staff. Once approved, the document is e-filed and e-service is accomplished. This process can take minutes, hours or days depending on how busy the clerk staff is. If approved, a document is considered filed at the time it was received, but it is not electronically sent to the person it was served on until approved. So a document can be in a queue at the court for days without the other party knowing it exists. On the other hand, if a document is not approved, it will be returned to the submitting party to be fixed, and it is not considered filed or served until it is re-submitted and approved. So, the submitting party could easily miss a deadline based on a review/approval delay.
AO 16 was amended to include a provision intended to help a party who encounters "technical issues" that delay filing of a document. Here is the text: "On a showing of good cause, the court may grant appropriate relief if electronic filing or electronic service was not competed due to technical problems." The committee may wish to discuss whether this provision needs to be expanded or amended so that parties can obtain relief for any problems related to the time lag that appears to be built into the Odyssey file and serve system.
3. Bill Lewis of the Grand Forks County Sheriff's Office has submitted a series of questions to the Court Administrator on electronic filing. These questions are attached. Some of them deal with electronic service of the summons and complaint or of subpoenas. Electronic service of these documents is not yet allowed. Another question, however, relates to whether electronic service on people who are "outside" of a case should be possible.
Mr. Lewis asks about the possibility of electronically serving a mental health order on the many persons who need to receive it -- petitioner, doctor, treatment facility, etc. N.D.R.Civ.P. 4(m) provides: "If a statute requires service and does not specify a method of service, service must be made under this rule." N.D.C.C. ch. 25-03.1 requires service of the initial commitment petition but it does not specifically require formal service of subsequent orders on the nonparties who need to be given notice of these orders. Apparently, current practice is to mail copies of these orders out. The committee may wish to discuss whether it would be appropriate to provide in AO16 for electronic "service" of such orders on nonparties who consent to receive them by electronic means.