The Times West Virginian

Local News

December 11, 2013

E-filing brings W.Va. court system ‘into the 21st century’

Marion County makes history in pilot project

FAIRMONT — Marion County made history Tuesday when the first lawsuit was filed on West Virginia’s new e-filing system by a Fairmont attorney.

“It’s like walking on the moon,” said West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Benjamin. “This is a tremendous advance forward. It will only get better.”

Attorney J. Scott Tharp of Tharp, Liotta & Yokum of Fairmont filed the trial case, a civil suit with multiple defendants and multiple plaintiffs.

Currently, legal briefs and motions are filed on paper, and must be taken physically to the circuit clerk’s office at the courthouse to be filed. Now, with e-filing, attorneys may file anyplace, anytime — from the office, at home or even from their iPhone at the local fast food place.

“This will save time and money. It’s a need and a want,” said Circuit Clerk Rhonda Starn. “There will be no more file pulling. It will be at their fingertips wherever there is Internet access.”

This brings the West Virginia court system “into the 21st century,” Benjamin said.

Although this first e-filing went “flawlessly,” he said, he knows there will be “little bumps along the way.”

“We are making baby steps, starting small,” he added. “We will have an additional number of filings as we continue to tweak the system. But I think this will happen a lot faster than everybody thinks.”

“This case will be closely watched from beginning to end” so any possible bugs will be worked out, said Barbara Core, former Marion County circuit clerk and now consultant for On-Line Information Services Inc. of Mobile, Ala. That company will provide the electronic capability to allow electronic filing using Software Systems of Morgantown’s case management system.

Storing files electronically will also free up valuable space, Benjamin said.

“I think in Marion County alone more than 1 million documents have been filed in the last 15 years,” he said. “Times that by 55 counties, and you see how much paper is involved in the legal system. This is a step in the right direction of cutting that down.”

“The Marion County Commission is proud that Marion County is the first to start this,” said county commissioner Butch Tennant. “Eventually paper files will cease to exist, and the clerk’s office will be able to destroy all the paper files once they’ve been scanned into the system.

“This will free up a lot of space in the courthouse for other projects. Citizens of the state will be able to access court records without coming to the courthouse. That’s the big thing.”

“We appreciate the confidence the Supreme Court has in Marion County’s ability to perform this remarkable task,” said Marion County Circuit Judge David R. Janes. “We look forward to everyone catching up with us.”

Benjamin praised Core, saying “this could not have happened without her.”

“This is a great day for the court system,” the former Marion County circuit clerk said.

She said she’d been working to get e-filing to Marion County for about 10 years.

“OK. It’s over. Now we’re ready to move on to Jefferson County,” she said. “The system will be fine tuned and we’ll train more attorneys. Then we’ll be ready to go.”

Next in line, Jefferson County uses the same computer software and already has documents scanned into the system, Benjamin said.

“As long as telephone lines are up, they can continue to do what business they need to get done,” he said. “This will be a tremendous savings to counties. It takes a lot of money to store records. This will take a lot of the recordkeeping off the premises of the courthouse, and that will free up space for other offices. It’s a win-win.

“This takes our court system to the front of court systems in the U.S.,” he said. “Consider where we came from even 10 years ago.

“Marion County already has one of the really good clerk offices in the state,” Benjamin said. “All the offices in the state operated slightly differently until the Supreme Court earlier this year decided to make everything more uniform. This allowed us to begin e-filing. The computer systems they use here are very compatible and easy to switch over and merge with the e-filing system. So Marion County was a natural pick.

“(Marion and Jefferson) counties were ready, willing and able to step up. Once we get the first counties up and online, others will come very quickly after that,” he said.

All 12 pilot counties will be up and running in the coming year, he said. The remaining counties will follow. It will take a while longer for the system to be accessible by media and private citizens, which will be on a subscription basis.

The state Supreme Court has purchased equipment for those counties that have never scanned documents, he said. Eventually, magistrate court records will be added to the system, he said. This will make West Virginia one of three states to do so.

“I’m proud of where our system has gone,” Benjamin said. “We’ve been recognized by the National Center for State Courts and have been asked to host all chief justices at The Greenbrier next year. The judiciary and entire government are stepping up and taking what is rightfully ours ... being at the forefront of America.

“This means a more efficient court system,” Benjamin said. “It won’t cost as much to the taxpayers and people involved. This will allow lawyers more flexibility in how they handle lawsuits.”

Email Debra Minor Wilson at

Text Only
Local News
  • Bush’s murder convictions reinstated

    Phillip Reese Bush had his two first-degree murder convictions reinstated on Wednesday.
    The Memorandum Decision was handed down by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. This decision reversed the Ohio County Circuit Court order from February 2013 that granted Bush a new trial.

    April 24, 2014

  • Weber would like to be Marion-Fairmont ‘buffer’

    With his six years of experience on Fairmont City Council, Daniel Weber is now running as a candidate for a seat on the Marion County Commission.
    Weber, a retired theater professor from Fairmont State University, said while he was teaching at the university he wanted to run for House of Delegates but couldn’t because he worked at FSU. It would have been a conflict of interest because delegates choose higher educators pay.

    April 24, 2014

  • Opposition to Worthington’s annexation proposal surfaces

    There was some opposition to the Town of Worthington’s annexation proposal.
    A public hearing was held Wednesday at the Marion County Commission meeting for the annexation of 43.28 acres into Worthington. Commissioners heard opinions on the matter but did not vote on the issue.

    April 24, 2014

  • Mailing on voter registration prompts questions

    Concerned voters started calling in to the Marion County Clerk’s office Wednesday after receiving a mailing from the Americans for Prosperity Foundation on voter registration.

    April 24, 2014

  • Farmington addresses problem properties

    The Town of Farmington is focusing on property maintenance, water and sewer issues.
    During its meeting on Monday night, council agreed to adopt the International Property Maintenance Code. This code, along with the town’s ordinance, will allow Farmington to better address some problem properties.

    April 24, 2014

  • (Main) Jay Rockefeller-EG.jpg ‘Something hard’ for Rockefeller turns out to be devotion to service

    U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., returned to West Virginia Wesleyan College Tuesday to host a public policy forum and reflect upon his time in public service.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • 042314 Chuckie Sanders-EG.jpg Sanders now eligible for parole

    Chuckie Sanders is eligible for parole today.
    Not bitter about the 20 years he’s served, Sanders, 52, acknowledges the crime he was charged with, the drug habit that clouded his judgment and the debt he had to pay to society.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Home-rule application approved by council

    Fairmont City Council approved on Tuesday submitting the city’s home-rule application to the home-rule board.

    April 23, 2014

  • Tennant hopes to keep county commission seat

    Burley “Butch” Tennant is not a stranger to the Marion County Commission.
    As the current president of the county commission, he started serving the six-year term in 2008.

    April 23, 2014

  • Gee and McKinley at WVU Healthcare Forum-EG.jpg Access to health care challenge to state

    Access to health care, and technology to better facilitate that care, is a big challenge in the rural areas of West Virginia.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
TWV Video Highlights
NDN Editor's Picks
House Ads