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Appellate Clerk's Office no longer sending rulings via the Postal Service.

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Appellate attorneys no longer receive a mailed hard copy of any order issued by Indiana's highest courts. Instead, those lawyers are now receiving documents in an e-mail.

In a measure to not only cuts costs but prepare the legal community for an even broader e-system, the Indiana Appellate Clerk's Office in mid-January stopped a practice it's had since 1817: mailing appellate decisions to attorneys and pro se litigants.

Just before the change took effect Jan. 21, Indiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard mentioned the topic in his annual State of the Judiciary and told lawmakers it would save the state about $39,000 this year alone. The new practice is also helping pave the way for a comprehensive appellate case management system, which is still being explored.

"We're not yet a paperless clerk's office, but a paper-based clerk's office trying to reduce paper and costs," said Appellate Clerk Kevin Smith. "We hope and intend to have an entirely new electronic case management system, and this is an interim step toward that bigger picture using our current system until we have the ability to acquire a new one."

Last fall, the Indiana Supreme Court changed Rule of Appellate Procedure 26 to dictate that all orders, opinions, and notices would be sent to attorneys by e-mail, and that pro se parties can opt to receive these documents the same way.

That change went into effect Jan. 1, but the clerk's office has been working since last fall on this. That meant confirming and double-checking e-mails and contact information for thousands of attorneys appearing in pending appellate cases, Smith said. Earlier in the year, the annual attorney registration statement asked attorneys to submit their e-mail addresses. Then in mid-December, Smith said about 206 letters were sent to attorneys who'd appeared in about 484 pending cases but didn't have a listed e-mail address. At the end of the year, a confirmation e-mail was sent to each attorney in every appeal requesting them to reply to confirm that e-mail address. This involved 2,172 attorneys in approximately 6,820 cases.

The e-mail asked them to simply hit reply, and to make sure they had their e-mail accounts set to not filter court orders into spam folders and that attachments of court documents could be received without a problem. Most of the e-mails got through without any issues, but the clerk's office did find some e-mail addresses that had been entered incorrectly or discontinued, Smith said. The staff also worked with firms that were changing domain names - which might influence the attorneys' abilities to properly receive the e-mailed court documents - and some firms whose firewalls blocked the e-mails.

Now, when attorneys enter appearances, the system will generate an e-mail confirming their contact information. If that e-mail isn't replied to after a certain time or it bounces back, the clerk's office will contact the attorney to verify if it was received or that the e-mail address is correct. Each e-mail sent and received is considered part of the court record, so they are docketed and placed in the case files. Heavy users of the appellate system - such as the Indiana Attorney General's Office and State Public Defender - will be put on a list so they don't receive e-mails for every new appearance, Smith said.

Currently, the state allows only one e-mail address to be included for each attorney, but Smith said the office and information technology department is exploring how to allow for multiple singleperson addresses. They can already ask that paralegals or assistants be included to receive orders.

Overall, Smith said the changeover didn't cost the state any taxpayer money except what was spent in staff time working to put the system in place.

"Getting to this point has been the greatest undertaking, but moving forward from here is much easier," Smith said. "We've done the best we can within the limitations of what we have now."

Appellate IT Director Robert Rath, who started in early 2009, has been working not only on this issue and other routine daily tasks, but he also is working behind the scenes to evaluate the current appellate IT system, what's needed, and how it could be created. That has involved looking to what other states have done, as well.

While this summer state officials will begin evaluating what to submit for the next biennium budget, Rath indicated that may be the time to start seeking any proposals or at least send notices about the state's interest in pursuing a new comprehensive appellate IT system.

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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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