E-filing and Documentation Management System (DMS)

A professionally-dressed woman sits on a windowsill of a hallway in a courthouse. She is using a tablet computer. In the background, a judge and two men in business suits have a discussion.

Our Challenge

Davidson County has a paper problem. The county's courts have records dating back to the 19th century, which they must maintain, track, and located regularly. Every other aspect of the modern world has gone digital for good reason, and the courts need to catch up. 
Relying on paper documents is costly (in terms of both space and administrative burden), inefficient, and outmoded. E-filing is widely used in federal courts, the Tennessee Supreme Court, and by most of court systems in Nashville's peer cities. Storing files electronically and using a document management system (DMS) prevent files from being misplaced or damaged in a natural disaster, saves storage space, allows 24/7 access to essential information without an in-person pick-up, and is more convenient for everyone involved. 
For the E-filing and Document Management System Public Investment Plan (PIP), Nashville's Criminal, Circuit, and Juvenile Courts will collaborate to create a request for proposal (RFP), sign a contract with the winning bid, and implement a uniform method to e-file all approved documents with the respective courts. 

Why It Matters

Cut Costs

It takes a lot of space and filing cabinets to store court files. So much space that Metro is rapidly running out of places to store documents. As a result, files are warehoused in several locations making retrieval tedious, time consuming, and costly. 
The need to protect files from water, fire, and other potential natural disasters or intentional destruction is both essential and expensive. 

Increase Efficiency

Each case file is touched many times, and by many people,  from initial appearance through final disposition and there is always an opportunity for a file to be misplaced.
There is just one copy of each file (which can grow to be immense) which means that if a document gets lost or misfiled it has a huge, destructive impact. 

Modern & Convenient 

Unlike an electronic file, which can be accessed and read by multiple users simultaneously, only one person can check out a paper file at a time. And, as years pass from when a case commences, the paper files will deteriorate. Plus, an electronic system allows all parties to file documents remotely, which eliminates the need to travel to the Clerks’ offices. 

A Natural Disaster-Proof Storage System 

Restoring 25% of the Juvenile Court Clerk's offices files after the 2010 flood cost more than a million dollars. The $1,186,427 price tag would not have been necessary with electronic files, which can be backed up on the cloud or remote servers. 
A road sign partially submerged in flood waters

Our Partners

The core groups involved in this PIP are the  Circuit, Juvenile, and Criminal Court Clerks along with Justice Integration Services. Other participants include: 
  • The Office of the District Attorney 
  • Public Defender
  • Judges
  • Nashville Bar Association
  • Legal Aid
  • Sheriff
  • Pro Se Litigants
  • Hospitals for Medical Record filings
  • Child Support Services

How It Works

To eliminate paper completely, the courts have to be able to accept electronic files. For this PIP, the Juvenile, Criminal, and Circuit Courts worked together to scope out the project and select a vendor, ultimately awarding the contract to Xerox Government Systems, LLC.
Each court's DMS will be customized to meet its unique needs. 

Success Metrics 

We'll define the e-filing and DMS PIP as a success based on the following factors:
  • Reduced need for physical storage space
  • Purchasing few supplies (e.g. paper, ink, and toner) and reducing the need for copier maintenance 
  • Ability of deputy clerks to focus attention on case management and customer service rather than storing and retrieving documents
  • Fewer lost and/or damaged documents 
  • 24/7 access to files, reducing wait times at counter and making it easier for judges and lawyers to prep for court

See More PIP Projects

Public Investment Planning is an innovative approach to budgeting, launched in 2016, that challenges Metro departments and agencies to think creatively about how they can collaborate on pilot initiatives to better serve Nashville-Davidson County residents. Learn more at http://www.nashville.gov/Finance/Public-Investment-Plans.aspx.