Electronic Filings

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I am interested in learning more about what role the docket clerk will play when a court gets into electronic filings. From what I know about it, the filing party will be doing the docketing. I have also been told that the docket clerks become more of quality control people. If this is correct, then it is good in that they won't lose their jobs. However, will they maintain their current salary? Or, a better question is, should they maintain their salaries? Will their work be as important, more important, or less important? Will you be able to eliminate some positions? What about morale?

-- James A. Drach (James Drach@pawd.uscourts.gov), September 28, 1999


This is a multi complex answer. Yes, case administrators become more quality control; however, their jobs have evolved into new descriptions. They have taken an active role in training--preparing the classes, conducting them and going to law firms to walk them through their first efforts. If you would like more detail, e:mail me. Thanks. I have Michael Berney here with me, who has introduced me to this new web site. Kathleen

-- Kathleen Farrell (kathleen_farrell@ca2.uscourts.gov), September 30, 1999.

Quality assurance has been the standard answer to this question. Other possible source of reassurance:

1. Notwithstanding the threat (or promise) that computers will eliminate jobs, it never seems to actually happen.

2. In my experience, clerks uniformly respond to this concern by looking for ways to make good use of their current staff, rather than by licking their chops about how they'll be able to fire people.

As an ECF prototype court, we've considered these questions at some length. We've made the usual quality assurance noises, but we've also undertaken a major reorganization and cross-training effort. Our goal is to blur (and, ultimately, even to eliminate) the current distinctions between job categories like docket clerk, courtroom deputy, intake clerk, appeals clerk, etc. This process is expected to take several years. Exactly what the office will look like when we're done is not 100% clear, but the vision is that a typical staff memmber will be a case manager empowered to deal with all aspects of all cases, even if his or her primary responsibilites focus on the caseload of one judge.

Over time, this could theoretically mean that our staff will become smaller but better paid on average. After all, it should take less work to watch over electronic filing/docketing done by counsel and chambers than the current method. But only time will tell. I haven't heard anyone say they're getting ready to lay off docket clerks or cut anyone's pay because of electronic filing.

-- Steve Sibelman (stephen_sibelman@ord.uscourts.gov), October 05, 1999.

The role of a docket clerk in our office continues to evolve as a result of ECF. The first obvious changes included more duties associated with quality assurance (matching docket entries/new petitions to attached PDF's and ensuring that the everything is readable) and converting paper filings into the ECF system via scaning. Thus, part of the job in the future will encompass more of these roles and less of the actual filing and docketing of paper documents.

Our commitment to staff has been one of "we will not lay anyone off" as a result of ECF, but cannot gaurantee that jobs may not be refilled due to attrition. To date (18 months doing ECF) there is no way we could afford to lose anyone. We are currently running BANCAP and ECF (although we hope to be off of BANCAP by the end of the year) and have needed every position during the transition.

The importance level of the positions I believe will at a minimum remain the same, but will probably be elevated because of the new skills needed to complete the job. Every Clerk's office will probably adopt a different apporach to this depending on local circumstances. For us it appears that there will be a continued movement towards "generalist" type duties (being responsible for all activity in a case from opening to closing) and less specialization (like closing only clerks or noticing only clerks). I don't know what this will mean for salaries, but I think the more technical these jobs become increases the opportunity for a higher classification.

-- Ken Gardner (kenneth_gardner@ce9.uscourts.gov), October 14, 1999.

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