Charleston County is joining the rest of South Carolina in requiring attorneys to file certain court records electronically starting on Oct. 21 — a change that will propel the local judicial system into the 21st century.
The technology upgrade will enable attorneys licensed in South Carolina to submit civil court records online instead of sending runners to deliver documents to the Charleston County Clerk of Court's office on Broad Street.
The move to electronic filing in the Court of Common Pleas was delayed earlier this year when Hurricane Dorian came spinning up the coast, shutting down government offices.
Julie Armstrong, Charleston County's Clerk of Court, hopes the new filing system will improve efficiency in one of the state's busiest courts, and she expects it will make it more convenient for attorneys practicing throughout the state.
The change puts some of the responsibility on filing court records on the attorneys instead of the clerks office, though county employees still need to approve the documents.
Average people who choose to represent themselves in larger civil cases will still be able to file paperwork in person, but anyone with a law license in South Carolina will be capable of submitting complaints, motions and proposed orders online.
Bev Carroll, president of the South Carolina Bar Association, said it is a huge accomplishment that all of the state's courts of common pleas will now have electronic filing. She believes it will help law firms, both large and small.
"I think it's been a great service, especially if your practice expands beyond just one county," said Carroll, whose law firm is based in Rock Hill.
The e-filing system enables attorneys to be notified via email as soon as a document is filed in a case. It also makes those documents accessible to the public online more quickly.
"I personally believe it does make us much more efficient," said Carroll. "In the old days, you used to have to put a courier or a paralegal on the road to go file something."
All of South Carolina's other counties already have been on the state's e-filing system.
Robert Duncan, the operations manager for Charleston County Clerk of Court, said the county is the last to undertake e-filing because it used a different case management system than many other counties in the state.
"We have gone to a few counties and talked to other clerks," Duncan said. "We were trying to get an idea and a feel for it."
The switch is likely to cut down on the amount of foot traffic at the clerk's office and save reams of paper.