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Electronic filing system expands to Jefferson County

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — On April 20, filing circuit court records will get a little easier in Jefferson County.

Justice Brent D. Benjamin, of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, will attend a press conference at 10 a.m. Monday in the Circuit Courtroom in Jefferson County Courthouse to announce the state’s electronic filing system will be expanded into Jefferson County.

Jefferson County is the second county in the state to start using the system.

The West Virginia Judiciary’s Unified Electronic System will allow anyone who wants to file a case in the Jefferson Circuit Court to do so electronically. Public documents will also be able to be accessed by any computer anywhere. The system is mostly for attorneys practicing in the state, who will be able to get an ID for the system through their state bar identification number. The system will be paid for by user fees paid by the attorneys who use the system to file. People representing themselves, such as in a divorce, can still file paper copies at the court, which clerks will scan into the system.

Laura Storm, Jefferson County Circuit Court Clerk, said the new system will save taxpayers a “considerable amount of money in the long run.”

“There’s less time being spent by our staff handling paper copies, less resources being used and less people needing to come into the office for our services,” she said. “We believe in five to 10 years, we will be able to start reducing the amount of staff we have here as well.”

Storm said the installation cost for the system is being covered by the state Supreme Court, which has formed a committee to create a repository of public records in the system, as well as trying to hash out what would be a reasonable user fee.

“We have a lot of attorneys come from large practices and some are just practicing on their own, so the committee is trying to strike a balance with how much to charge people,” she said. “They are also looking into the issue of how much to charge the public for looking at records.”

Records that are typically not public can be unsealed and viewed in the system if one of the parties involved asks to see it, Storm said. However, juvenile records will still remained sealed, as per state law.

The system stems from amendments to the West Virginia Trial Court Rules that came into effect in May 2014, when circuit courts became required to transition to e-filings. Marion County was the first county to pilot the project in August 2013.

Storm said she is relieved and excited to see the system come to Jefferson County.

“We’re just thrilled to be a part of this process, and we know we are ready because our office has been able to stay up to date with technology,” she said.

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