Electronic Filing in California State Court 1/

by Julie A. Goren, Esq.

Author and Publisher of Litigation By The Numbers®

©  2011 by Julie A. Goren, Esq.


Electronic filing, or “eFiling,” is just another one of the many “e’s” constantly popping up in our daily lives, and, in the legal world, fits right in with eService and eDiscovery. As is the case with the other legal-related “e’s,” many legal professionals are reluctant to venture into the world of eFiling.  They secretly hope either that it will go away or they can continue to avoid it.  This reluctance is often fear-based; learning something entirely new can be challenging.  However, eFiling, which is here to stay, represents a tremendous improvement over alternative methods, and is not difficult. 

California Rules of Court, Rule 2.250(b)(7) defines electronic filing as “the electronic transmission to a court of a document in electronic form.”  This very broad definition encompasses two distinct categories of eFiling:  (a) directly by a party, and (b) through an “electronic filing service provider” (“EFSP”), which does the eFiling on the party’s behalf.  The vast majority of California state courts do not yet allow electronic filing.  Of the courts that do, with one exception, they either allow direct eFiling or eFiling through an electronic filing service provider (“EFSP”), but not both.

There are two types of direct eFiling.  One method requires the eFiler to email a document to the court clerk.  The second requires the eFiler to enter information on the court’s website to generate and submit a document.  eFiling through an EFSP requires the eFiler to submit the document in electronic form to the EFSP, which eFiles it through the court’s case management system.  Sometimes referred to as “true eFiling,” this process does not involve paper at any point between the eFiler and the clerk.

Here’s how it basically works:

  • The eFiler prepares the document and transmits it to the EFSP in accordance with the EFSP’s requirements. 
  • Through its own gateway, the EFSP sends the document right into the court’s case management system.
  • Upon receipt by the court’s case management system, a confirmation of the date and time of receipt is emailed to the eFiler.  (C.R.C., Rule 2.259(a)(1)) 
  • The court clerk reviews the document for errors or other insufficiencies, and accepts or rejects it.  From a substantive standpoint, this review is the same as the clerk’s review of paper documents, but there are additional grounds for rejection, e.g., the clerk might not be able to open the document, the document might not be one allowed to be electronically filed, etc.  
  • Upon accepting the document for filing, the clerk  applies a digital stamp indicating the time and date of filing (“filed-endorsed stamp”). 
  • The eFiler is then sent an email, attaching a Notice of Confirmation of Electronic Filing, and directing the eFiler to a link through which a conformed copy may be downloaded. 
  • The Notice of Confirmation of Electronic Filing indicates any transaction number associated with the filing, the titles of the document as filed by the court, and any fees assessed by the court for the filing.  (C.R.C., Rule 2.259(a)(2)) 

While there are similarities among the courts, there are many more differences, including what they require to be eFiled, what they allow to be eFiled, the electronic form they accept, the size of the documents they accept, the required format for exhibits, the need to bookmark documents, the selection of EFSPs, and more.  Failing to follow a particular court’s requirements could result in your document being rejected.  Accordingly, before attempting an eFiling, you must find and follow the applicable rules. 

  • Familiarize yourself with the statewide rules (C.R.C., Rules 2.250-2.261). 
  • Read everything you can find on the applicable court website about eFiling!  Look for local rules and FAQs.  In addition, where eFiling is mandatory, there will likely be a “General Order” with important information.  Find it and read it — it is part of the rules.
  • If eFiling via an EFSP, contact them to obtain their training materials, tutorials, etc.  If you have questions, call your EFSP!

[The full 10-page article contains further detailed information, including the following:]

  • A Table listing each of the courts which allow or require eFiling, including what must be eFiled, what may be eFiled, and whether they allow direct eFiling or eFiling through an EFSP
  • Sample notices and forms
  • Information about selecting the EFSP
  • Hints about preparing the document to be eFiled, including signatures, exhibits, bookmarking, optimizing the document, and document security
  • Information about timing the eFiling, submitting applicable fees, and printing conformed copies
  • Important information about the advantages of electronic service through the EFSP

Go to www.litigationbythenumbers.com for more information about Litigation By The Numbers®, to view excerpts, read testimonials, and to purchase your own copy.

1/   This article contains excerpts from the July 2011 edition of Litigation By The Numbers®, a loose leaf with over 460 pages devoted solely to the intricacies of California civil litigation procedure.  The full 10-page discussion, written with the help of Mark Schwartz, Product Training & Research Manager of One Legal, LLC, was included in the July 2011 Update. This article is no longer current.

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