Tips from Your Local Courthouse about eCourt

The latest eCourt Open Hours held by Oregon’s Fourth Judicial District revealed some useful tips and reminders.  The session was recorded by the Professional Liability Fund and is available on the PLF website as eService for Criminal Filings. 

Whether you practice criminal or civil law, there are good lessons to be gleaned from this presentation:

Service

  • Adding yourself as a service contact is required: “At the time of preparing the filer’s first eFiling, a filer must enter in the electronic filing system the name and service email address of the filer, designated as a service contact on behalf of the party the filer represents.”  UTCR 21.100(2).  You must attach your service contact information to every case the first time you eFile into a matter.
  • Until the other side appears and adds itself as a service contact, you must use conventional methods of service. Reminder: you cannot add the opposing party as a service contact to accomplish eService.
  • In criminal cases, the defense may be the first side to “appear.”  If this is true, use conventional service methods until the district attorney eFiles into the case.  In some counties (Deschutes), the district attorney’s office may file a “Notice of Acceptance of eService” at inception.  In such cases, eService is permissible.
  • To accomplish service in the Tyler Odyssey system, change your selection from eFile (the default setting) to eFile & Serve. Avoid multiple methods of service – they are a waste of time.
  • It is permissible to use a generic Certificate of Service where you check a box indicating the method of service (eService, personal service, etc.)
  • For what to include in a Certificate of Service, see UTCR 2.020.  See the example below.  Other examples were shown during the eService for Criminal Filings presentation, recorded by the PLF.

CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE

I certify that I eServed the within (Name of Document) on the following person(s) at the party’s email address as recorded on the date of service in the eFiling system:

(Name of Person Served)
(Title of Party, such as Attorney for Plaintiff)

Dated: (Date)

(Insert signature line)

eFiling Tips

  • Complete the “filing on behalf of field” so court staff and others know which party filed the document.
  • File Certificates of Service with the document being served.  UTCR 21.040(2), requiring unified, single PDFs.
  • Reminder: the system does not automatically notify filers when a document is filed in a case.

Substitutions of Counsel

If you are substituting in for another attorney, file a Notice of Substitution not a mere Notice of Representation. Include:

  • The date of any scheduled trial or hearing
  • Serve the substitution on the current attorney and opposing party/attorney
  • Attach a Certificate of Service (filed with the notice as a single unified PDF)
  • Add yourself as a service contact in the case.  UTCR 3.140(1).

eCourt Notifications

Use the “admin copy” area of eFile & Serve to add email addresses for others in the firm who wish to be copied on documents filed in the case.

Technical Issues

The Microsoft Edge web browser may not be fully compatible with Odyssey eFile & Serve.  If you experience problems, try Chrome, Microsoft Explorer, or another browser.

All Rights Reserved 2017 Beverly Michaelis

 

Failure to Check Spam Folder Leads to Missed Deadline

Court notices delivered via email are a known point of vulnerability for law firms: failure to timely check messages, accidental deletion of court notices, or haphazard review of spam folders.

Now The Researching Paralegal reports on the latest variation of this theme.

A trial court clerk in Florida served an order by email awarding a significant amount of attorney fees to the prevailing party (appellee).  The opponent/appellant claimed it did not receive the order, resulting in its failure to file an appeal.  What happened? The opponent/appellant’s email system automatically deleted the court’s email as spam.

The opponent/appellant asked the court to vacate the original order on the grounds of excusable neglect.  The trial court declined and Florida’s First District Court of Appeal affirmed. The Researching Paralegal cites these factors:

First, the review of the court clerk’s email logs confirmed that the email with the court’s order was served and received by the law firm’s server. Second, the law firm’s email configuration made it impossible to determine whether the firm’s server received the email. Third, the law firm’s former IT specialist’s advice against this configuration flaw was deliberately rejected by the law firm because its alternative cost more money.

The trial court concluded the law firm made a conscious decision to use a defective email configuration merely to save money, which was not “excusable neglect.”

Another nail in the coffin was testimony by the appellee’s attorney. His firm assigned a paralegal to check the court’s website every three weeks to safeguard that his firm would not miss any orders or deadlines.  The court held that the appellant had a duty to check the court’s electronic docket.

Emerald Coast Utilities Authority v. Bear Marcus Pointe, LLCCase No. 1D15-5714, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 1st Dist (2017).

What can we learn from Emerald Coast?

  1. Whitelist important email. Set your spam or junk email filters to allow receipt of messages from approved senders or domains. Include courts, administrative agencies, key clients, opposing counsel, and any other senders whose email you don’t want to miss.
  2. Review spam quarantine summaries daily. Aggressive spam filters will occasionally block senders and domains you have added to your whitelist if the filter finds content in the email to be possible spam.  Addresses and domains may also change, causing new notices to be marked as spam.
  3. Don’t forget to look at your junk mail folder, another place where legitimate messages can land.
  4. Check online court dockets. Weekly will work for most firms; others may need to login daily, depending on case volume.
  5. Listen to your IT staff.  Here, the IT specialist argued against automatic deletion of junk and spam messages and recommended hiring a third-party vendor to handle spam filtering.  He also suggested investing in an online backup system, another idea rejected by the law firm.  Following either of these recommendations may have prevented the firm from missing the deadline.

A few more takeaways

  • It should be clear, but just in case:  everyone needs a backup system. If you can’t afford the cost of an online subscription, buy an external hard drive on sale and use the backup utility built into your operating system.  For backup protocols and additional backup options, see How to Backup Your Computer from the Professional Liability Fund (Practice Management > Forms > Technology).
  • Can’t afford a third-party vendor for spam filtering or another IT task?  Understandable, but the work itself still needs to get done. This may mean you, your partner, or your staff.  Technology is a tool, not a substitute for human judgment.

There are some other interesting twists and turns in Emerald Coast.  For examplethe law firm also refused to join in on a motion for a case management conference – a step that would have likely revealed the existence of the attorney fee award.  Additionally, automatic deletion of spam wasn’t the only email configuration procedure that caused problems for this office.  If you have a few moments, read the full opinion here.

Beverly Michaelis – All Rights Reserved 2017

eChecks and eCourt

The most recent issue of the Capitol Insider reminded bar members that OJD eFiling now accepts electronic checks (eChecks) as a payment method.  You can setup an eCheck account at the OJD HTML 5 eFiling Site.  (If you’re still using the “Silverlight” version of OJD eFiling go here.)

What are eChecks?

The term “eCheck” attempts to lend a familiar name to a new(er) process, but the descriptor also leads to confusion.  

What eChecks are not

  • eChecks are not “checks” in the traditional sense. 
  • They require no special setup.
  • There is no cost to using eChecks.
  • You don’t have to visit your bank to start using eChecks.

What eChecks Are

  • A way to send electronic payments directly from your bank account.
  • Equivalent to electronic transfers or ACH payments.
  • Used by merchants like PayPal.

What do I need to know to pay by eCheck?

If you have a bank account and know your routing and account numbers, you can pay by eCheck.

HOW QUICKLY DO ECHECK TRANSACTIONS CLEAR MY BANK?

eCheck payments generally clear within 24-48 hours.

Are there any advantages to using eChecks?

Yes!

  • The May issue of the Capitol Insider reports that using eChecks will “keep costs down and limit future increases in filing fees.” This makes sense because eChecks eliminate credit card processing fees. Paying by eCheck is free to both parties – the payor/eFiler and the payee/OJD. It is a bank-to-bank transaction.
  • Bookkeeping will be simpler for OSB eFilers. Paying eFiling fees by credit card requires the extra step of reconciling your credit card statement to your eCourt account. And there is also the matter of billing. Even if you bill or post a filing fee expense to your client’s account when it is incurred, this only improves the timing of your reimbursement – it doesn’t shorten the accounting steps.
  • You now have the flexibility to easily use your trust account as a source of paying filing fees. (A debit card tied to your trust account is also permissible, but be sure to take proper steps to protect client funds.)
  • Lawyers who don’t have credit cards won’t be forced to get one just to use the OJD eFiling system.
  • Lawyers who can’t get credit cards will no longer be penalized.
  • Firms won’t have to set up special reminders to renew or update credit card information in OJD eFiling accounts, since routing and bank account numbers never expire. Do remember to update your payment information if you change banks!

Do you currently have a debit or credit card dedicated to paying eCourt filing fees?

If yes, and you make the switch to eChecks, quit using your debit or credit card for eCourt filing fees. This starts the process of closing your account. Verify that all pending transactions have been processed. Reconcile your final card statement, bill clients, then wait an additional month before you direct your bank or processor cancel your account. There should be no more debit or credit activity during this time. Assuming all transactions are accounted for, close your account. Remember to delete your debit or credit card from the OJD eFiling system.

NOTE

If your debit/credit card is used for other purposes beyond paying eCourt fees, ignore this advice.

How do I set up eCheck payments?

Users can create an eCheck payment account under Payment Accounts in FIRM ADMIN. If you need help with this process on the HMTL 5 site, download the Firm Administrator Guide 3.15 available here.  You can also get help with this step from the vendor, Tyler Technologies:

New Terms of Use

With the addition of eChecks as a payment method, the OJD and Tyler Technologies Terms of Use have been updated. View the new TOU here

All Rights Reserved 2017 Beverly Michaelis

eCourt Malpractice Traps 2017 – Last Call!

Polish your Oregon eCourt knowledge and avoid potential malpractice traps with this 2017 CLE update.

Topics include:

  • Relation Back Malpractice Traps – Defining filing “acceptance,” notification of rejected filings, the process for seeking relation back, right to object, judicial discretion, system errors, multiple filing attempts, and what to do if your relation-back request is denied.pexels-photo-60626-medium
  • Ever-changing Rules and Software – Recent out-of-cycle amendments to the UTCRs, proposed UTCR changes for 2017, and upgrades to the Odyssey eFile & Serve software (Silverlight vs. HTML 5).
  • Common Reasons for Rejected Filings – A review of 12 of the most common filing errors and where to find OJD standards for electronic filings in circuit courts.
  • How to Avoid eCourt Malpractice Traps – Where and how to get help with OJCIN, eFiling, and questions about rules plus key resources from the Professional Liability Fund, Oregon Judicial Department, Odyssey, and others.

Date/Time/Location

Wednesday, April 5, 2017 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Pacific Time.  This is a live, online webinar. Watch from your desktop computer or mobile device. Connect to audio via telephone or computer/device speakers.

Who Should Attend?

Lawyers, office managers, administrators, and staff.  If you want to avoid common malpractice traps, need a refresher on changes to the Uniform Trial Court Rules or eFiling software, or want to discover the most common mistakes made by Oregon eFilers, attend this CLE.

Does the Program Include Written Materials?

Yes.  Written materials will be distributed electronically to all registered attendees prior to the event.

Ask Questions/Participate in Live Polling

Questions are welcome during the live event.  Attendees are also encouraged to participate in live, anonymous polling.

Registration Fee

$25 – Visit the CLE Events page, click here, or choose the Register button below. Secure payment processing powered by Eventbrite. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Program materials included in the registration price.

MCLE Credits
2.0 Practical Skills/General MCLE Credits pending.

Eventbrite - eCourt Malpractice Traps 2017

Can’t Attend?

Video and audio recordings of eCourt Malpractice Traps 2017 will be available to download along with the program materials following the April 5 CLE. Price: $25. Contact me for more information.

All Rights Reserved [2017] Beverly Michaelis

eCourt Malpractice Traps 2017

Polish your Oregon eCourt knowledge and avoid potential malpractice traps with this 2017 CLE update.

Topics include:

  • Relation Back Malpractice Traps – Defining filing “acceptance,” notification of rejected filings, the process for seeking relation back, right to object, judicial discretion, system errors, multiple filing attempts, and what to do if your relation-back request is denied.
  • Ever-changing Rules and Software – Recent out-of-cycle amendments to the UTCRs, proposed UTCR changes for 2017, and upgrades to the Odyssey eFile & Serve software (Silverlight vs. HTML 5).
  • Common Reasons for Rejected Filings – A review of 12 of the most common filing errors and where to find OJD standards for electronic filings in circuit courts.
  • How to Avoid eCourt Malpractice Traps – Where and how to get help with OJCIN, eFiling, and questions about rules plus key resources from the Professional Liability Fund, Oregon Judicial Department, Odyssey, and others.

Date/Time/Location

Wednesday, April 5, 2017 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Pacific Time.  This is a live, online webinar. Watch from your desktop computer or mobile device. Connect to audio via telephone or computer/device speakers.

Who Should Attend?

Lawyers, office managers, administrators, and staff.  If you want to avoid common malpractice traps, need a refresher on changes to the Uniform Trial Court Rules or eFiling software, or want to discover the most common mistakes made by Oregon eFilers, attend this CLE.

Does the Program Include Written Materials?

Yes.  Written materials will be distributed electronically to all registered attendees prior to the event.

Ask Questions/Participate in Live Polling

Questions are welcome during the live event.  Attendees are also encouraged to participate in live, anonymous polling.

Registration Fee

$25 – Visit the CLE Events page, click here, or choose the Register button below. Secure payment processing powered by Eventbrite. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Program materials included in the registration price.

MCLE Credits
2.0 Practical Skills/General MCLE Credits pending.

Eventbrite - eCourt Malpractice Traps 2017

Can’t Attend?

Video and audio recordings of eCourt Malpractice Traps 2017 will be available to download along with the program materials following the April 5 CLE. Price: $25. Contact me for more information.

All Rights Reserved [2017] Beverly Michaelis