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SD court system moves to electronic filing

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News Mitchell,South Dakota 57301 http://www.mitchellrepublic.com/sites/all/themes/mitchellrepublic_theme/images/social_default_image.png
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SD court system moves to electronic filing
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

SIOUX FALLS (AP) — Prosecutors and defense lawyers will be able to submit South Dakota court filings online by the end of January.

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The move to optional electronic filing in criminal cases will be followed in March by the online filing in civil cases, such as divorces, lawsuits or protection orders.

As soon as November, all court records in South Dakota will be filed electronically, State Court Administrator Greg Sattizahn told The Argus Leader.

While there is no timeline for public access to the electronic records, software that will give the public access to files and the ability to file documents themselves is being developed, Sattizahn said.

"At this point, it's just for the attorneys," Sattizahn said. "It's not a public portal yet."

The federal courts have used electronic filing for more than a decade, and the public can view and download those records for a charge.

Clerks of court in the state system began changing to a newer electronic record system in 2011. Since the fall of 2012, every paper filing in an adult case has been scanned and filed electronically as well. Electronic filing, which allows lawyers to scan and send criminal complaints and motions without visiting the courthouse, has been in the works since then, Sattizahn said.

The state pays a company called Tyler Technologies $15,000 a year for the court management and filing system. The company is working to update the software and make it available to the public.

"It really opens up the availability of the courts to filers," Sattizahn said. "You can file documents 24 hours a day."

The state Unified Judicial System started electronic filing in the 7th Judicial Circuit in western South Dakota in October, beginning with state's attorneys, public defenders and one private firm.

Susan Shephard, office manager for the Pennington County Sheriff's Office, said the 12 legal secretaries in the office who handle adult cases once had to bring paper copies of each new motion in a criminal case to the courthouse for filing. Now, one paper copy is made, converted to an electronic file and distributed electronically to the judge and lawyers attached to the case.

With thousands of motions filed each month, the electronic filing software will cut the use of paper, she said. Shephard previously bought 10 boxes of paper every month.

"What's huge for us is that savings in paper," she said.

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