Piles of files out as Fulton court enters the e-era

Well, there isn’t quite this much paper at the courthouse … (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Credit: Gene J. Puskar

Credit: Gene J. Puskar

Well, there isn’t quite this much paper at the courthouse … (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

For decades, the Fulton County Superior Court Clerk’s Office has been overrun with mountainous piles of paper from civil lawsuits — there were about 19,000 filings last year alone.

Roughly two weeks from now, that will all but come to an end.

Beginning Oct. 5, anyone who wishes to file a civil complaint — i.e., the document or “pleading” that initiates a civil lawsuit — must do so electronically.

A number of courts across the state already allow electronic filings. But Fulton’s Superior Court will have the distinction of making them mandatory.

“It’s exciting because it’s a totally different way of doing business,” Superior Court Clerk Cathelene “Tina” Robinson said. “It’s something the public and our customers have wanted for a long while.”

The legal community is already embracing the news. No longer will attorneys have to race to the courthouse to meet filing deadlines by the close of the business day at 5 p.m. Now, they can file court pleadings through the eFileGA electronic filing system. And if the civil complaint is filed by 11:59 p.m. on a day the court is open for business, it will be marked as being filed that day.

“I’m glad to hear it,” said Atlanta lawyer Bill Barwick, co-chair of the Fulton County Court Improvement Task Force. “I know it’s been a while coming. There are a lot of lawyers who will be happy to hear this news.”

A primary concern of the court’s judges was the ability for “pro se” litigants — those representing themselves without a lawyer — to continue to be able to file their pleadings, Robinson said.

Pro se litigants can use the online system by setting up an account, which will require them to pay a transaction fee for each filing. Or, they can come to the courthouse and use one of more than two dozen kiosks that will let them scan their complaints and file them electronically, without having to pay a transaction fee, Robinson said.