The District of Columbia Superior Court is adding probate to its growing list of court divisions that allow-and for lawyers, require-electronic filing of documents.
As of September 24, lawyers and litigants will have the option of e-filing in probate cases. Beginning in November, e-filing will become mandatory for lawyers but remain optional for litigants representing themselves without counsel.
"In a computerized age, this is the move to make," Judge John Campbell, presiding judge of Superior Court's probate and tax divisions, said in an interview today. "This is the direction that all courts are going in. It's certainly, in a computerized age, more efficient, more convenient for lawyers."
E-filing is already required for lawyers in most civil cases and in the tax division. Last fall, the court launched e-filing in Family Court for neglect and abuse, juvenile and domestic relations cases, and made it mandatory for lawyers beginning in January. Pro se litigants are not required to use e-filing.
The e-filing system for probate cases does have some limits. Lawyers will still have to file hard copies of filings with the court to open new cases, and the court will continue to require paper versions of certain documents, such as wills.
Campbell said the switch to e-filing in probate was part of the court's broader plan to eventually use e-filing throughout the courthouse. "Change is always hard, but I think it's the way to go," he said. "I think the bar in particular is anxious to move in this direction."