This easy-to-use application integrates all the court’s case management systems into one program—the Electronic Legal File (ELF).
Courts employ a number of different computer systems—often one for each administrative function, such as recording, filing, and updating court calendars. The Electronic Legal File (ELF) unifies all these systems into one simple structure. Instead of logging on to different systems, a judicial officer or a court employee need only open up ELF.
The story of ELF began in 2009, when the Superior Court of Orange County made a decision to recognize electronic files as legal documents. The court scanned paper files electronically and then destroyed them. It then made the documents available to judges and court staff with a multidocument viewer (MDV).
Using the MDV, however, was very time-consuming. A user had to log on to each case and each document separately. Accessing recommendations for each case from research attorneys or finding the date and time for a specific hearing required additional searches. It was soon clear to everyone at the court that a new, more comprehensive application was needed. Under the leadership of Judge Kim G. Dunning, the court initiated the development of ELF. The staff of Court Technology Services built the infrastructure for the application in August 2009 and began a pilot program in December of that year. After all civil judges and staff had been trained in its use, ELF was fully deployed in April 2010.
The Electronic Legal File has brought profound operational changes at every level of the court. Now, when a judge logs on to ELF, the initial page displays the day’s calendar for the judge’s department. He or she can move to other days, search for a specific case, or view the calendar for another courtroom. With a few clicks, the judge can view all documents filed on a specific case. This includes the official case file, recommendations from research attorneys, and any other information that court clerks think the judge would find useful.
Life is also easier for the court clerks. Instead of manually retrieving and compiling paper documents for each case, they can place them directly on ELF. In addition, calendars are much easier to prepare, whether they are daily calendars for each department or “alpha calendar pages”—that is, master lists of all cases scheduled for hearing on specific days.
In March 20011, ELF was extended to family law. The court is planning to expand the application to other case types as well.
Other courts have expressed an interest in ELF, including the Superior Courts of Santa Clara and Napa Counties. The Superior Courts of Sacramento and San Diego Counties are implementing their own versions of ELF—with assistance from Orange County Court Technology Services. The software is easily transferable, and the costs—which mostly involve technology staff time—are low.
Adopting ELF has enabled the court to eliminate 12 clerical positions; redeploying the staff and eliminating the vacant positions has created an annual savings of $735,000.
ELF displays information relevant to each type of user, including judicial officers, clerks, and research attorneys. It enables users to instantly view department calendars and retrieve electronic documents from any case at the touch of a button. All information about each case is easily accessible.
• Enables judges and court staff to work more easily and efficiently
• Creates a paperless environment
• Saves $735,000 annually
Snorri Ogata, Chief Technology Officer