The Iowa court system reached a milestone Wednesday as all 99 counties now have electronic filing. Court communications officer Steve Davis says it’s a monumental achievement for the courts. “The biggest part of this is access to justice,” Davis says, “now people can access the courts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which they weren’t able to do before.” Davis says a variety of people need access to court records.
“Attorneys are large users with their cases, but there’s also a lot of Iowans who represent themselves in court. Small claims cases and cases like those where they might be able to work in the evening and file documents in the evening where previously they would have had to take time off of work and go to the courthouse,” Davis says.
The electronic filing system makes it easier for everyone working on a case. “It makes all the files available the parties at the same time — that’s one big convenience. Because, previously if someone else had the case file and someone else wanted to see a document in it, they’d have to wait. Now multiple people can view the same file at the same time,” according to Davis.
The electronic system also cuts down on courtroom clutter. “It removes a lot of the stacks of files and papers on that are on clerks’ desks that needed to be filed manually. Now they are filed electronically so they are not taking up as much space in the courtroom,” he says.
The first electronic documents were filed in Plymouth County five years ago, and the system was then expanded to cover every county. “It was tweaked and refined and the bugs were worked out,” Davis explains. “It’s a totally unique system to Iowa, it’s not an off-the-shelf program that we just took and implemented. The I-T department developed it and worked slowly so it works well for everyone.”
The Electronic Document Management System includes more than six million documents filed by nearly 88,000 users.