Michigan Senate committee advances plan to make it easier to transition to e-courts

I mentioned back in March here and here a package of bills introduced in the Michigan House to rewrite existing statutes to remove or alter requirements of paper documents, helping move the entire state’s judiciary towards electronic filing, documents, storage. The House passed its versions of the bills in March and the Senate has now turned its attention to the matter.

HB 4064 and HB 4532 delete almost all statutes related to retention of, access to, and destruction of records and mediums in which a record may be produced. They also removes a provision in law prohibiting probate court records, except otherwise provided by law, to be inspected without charge by all interested persons.

In lieu of all these statutes, the State Court Administrative Office would establish and maintain records management policies and procedures for all courts, including a records retention and disposal schedule, in accordance with Supreme Court rules. The new rules would have to be developed and maintained in laws currently related to the Michigan Historical Commission.

In addition to storage issues, HB 4064 and HB 4532 deal with access to court records. Under the bills electronic access to case records, pleadings, practice, and procedure would be set by Supreme Court rule. So called “enhanced access” could be based on “reasonable fee”, defined as “a charge calculated to enable a court to recover, over time, operating expenses directly related to enhanced access.” Moreover, and perhaps critical to the actual development of electronic document management and e-filing systems, “operating expense” would include “the cost of computer hardware and software, system development, employee time, and the actual cost of providing the access.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved amended versions of HB 4064 and HB 4532 on November 7. If approved by the Senate the House would need to concur with the amendment.