San Diego’s immigration court will be among the first to pilot a new electronic filing system as part of the federal government’s plan to move the courts off of a paper-based system.
The pilot is scheduled to begin on July 16, according to a notice in the Federal Register. Immigration courts in San Diego and York, Pennsylvania, will be the first to install the system. Atlanta and Denver courts will join the pilot in August, and Baltimore and Charlotte, North Carolina, courts will begin in September, according to the Executive Office for Immigration Review.
EOIR, the agency with the Department of Justice that employs immigration judges and operates the courts, said that it hopes implementing an electronic system will help reduce its ever-increasing backlog, currently at more than 714,000 cases.
Immigration attorney Ginger Jacobs welcomed the new system.
“To be able to file and serve electronically will save thousands upon thousands of pieces of paper from our office alone!” Jacobs said. “It will also be easier for a new lawyer taking over a case to access previously-filed documents.”
In today’s courts, staff walk copies of documents between immigrants and their attorneys, government attorneys and judges. Judges keep two-hole punches on their desks to place new filings in the folders that keep all of an immigrants’ case information in one place.
If the case transfers to another court, that court has to receive the paper folder to have the immigrant’s information and case documents.
Attorneys needing to file documents for their clients either have to mail them or go to court to hand deliver them. They have to submit public records requests to see documents already in a new client’s file, a process that can take months.
Attorneys who opt in for the pilot will be able to file documents electronically and view their clients’ records online.
“It’s exciting, but I am always really cautious about these things,” said Tammy Lin, an immigration attorney in San Diego. “Hopefully it all goes smoothly.”
Lin worried about the new system’s security and whether hackers might be able to expose details from highly sensitive cases. She also worried about cases that transfer between courts using the pilot system and those still on paper or vice versa and whether the federal government has plans in place to handle those logistics. m for print.
Cases for people who don’t have lawyers will still be kept on paper.
By Kate Morrissey for THE SAN DIEGO UNION – TRIBUNE
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