Appellate pleadings, motions to be put online sometime in next 60 days

The Indiana Supreme Court task force created to look into remote access and privacy of electronic records has decided appellate pleadings and motions filed by attorneys will be put online at sometime within the next 60 days.

At its first meeting Feb. 29, the task force decided to put appellate briefs filed by attorneys online April 1, and is moving toward putting most materials online by the end of the year. At its meeting Friday, the task force looked at the accessibility of online court materials in 15 other states, especially the states around Indiana, and determined that the effort is pushing Indiana to the forefront of the nation in terms of accessibility.

“We’ll be one of the most open states in the nation,” Bob Rath, director of Appellate Court Technology, said. “You talk about progress, by the end of this, we’ll be right on the cusp of it.”

Rath said 80 briefs were online as of Friday, and half of those were e-filed. Sixty-three percent of trial court briefs were also online, he said.

Based on Indiana’s survey of what other states are doing, 12 states put court documents online, 10 put pleadings online, 11 post court orders and eight post appellate briefs. Six of 12 had documents available to the general public.

The task force’s concern about putting appellate pleadings and motions online was the same as putting briefs online: revealing too much personal information about the people filing the motions. However, with the process to put documents online established the first time the task force met, this meeting was not as contentious, and the process was ironed out.

Motions were defined as petitions to transfer, petitions to strike, and petitions to remand, consolidate, stay, redact and compel. Judge Paul Mathias of the Indiana Court of Appeals said that court deals with about 5,000 motions a year.

There were discussions about motions to redact and what to do if a motion to redact is put online. That’s one of reasons why Joel Schumm, professor at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, suggested a warning to those who are filing pleadings and motions that this will appear online. He suggested a check box at the end of the process like other check boxes, but there was concern the text would not be read, just checked.

Fred Cate, professor at IU Maurer School of Law, said he liked the idea of a warning, but thought the check box was pointless.

“Let’s rid the world of another check box,” he said. “The world doesn’t need another check box.”

It was decided a warning would be put with filings, but because of these concerns, the motion to put pleadings online May 1 was changed to sometime within the next 60 days so the warning could be added to the process.

The next meeting of the panel will be May 6, when the task force will discuss posting trial court orders and judgments. Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush said the challenge with that will be that Indiana does not have a unified court system, so getting all of the individual courts on the same page might be a challenge.

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