American Judges Association


Date of this Version

December 2006


Published in Court Review: The Journal of the American Judges Association, 42:3-4 (2006), pp. 41-42. Copyright © 2006 National Center for State Courts. Used by permission. Online at


The title obviously comes from Bob Dylan’s classic song from 1964. That song captured the spirit of the times and again, in a small way, captures ours as well. This year’s upcoming E-Courts Conference ( in December will highlight both the changes that computers have brought to court operations and where things are going in the future.

Court operations have been impacted over the past decade with the implementation of electronic court document filing (aka E-filing). This year the U.S. federal courts will have electronic filing available in nearly all district and bankruptcy courts. We have seen that not as many court staff are needed to perform filing and case-processing procedures, and the staff working with the information have greater capabilities since they are working with the information rather than shuffling paper.

Security of court information has also been impacted by E-filing since it can be accessed literally worldwide as well as copied to multiple distant computer servers so that if a courthouse is physically destroyed, the information is safe. The 9-11 attack in New York City proved the security of electronic court information because many law firms housed in the World Trade Center asked the federal bankruptcy and district courts in New York City to use their electronic archives to help to rebuild their files. The federal courts store their E-filing information in multiple computer servers throughout the country, making it virtually impossible to destroy.

But the E-Courts Conference and concept is about much more than current technology. It is about taking advantage of the “digital opportunity” that continually presents itself. I believe that there is a radical change about to occur in how court automation systems will work, and how these systems will connect with one another. Technology advances have provided a new foundation that is significantly different than what we had to work with in the past. This article will list a few of these technology advances and why they will affect the way that court and legal automation systems will be built.

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