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Ouachita Parish Clerk of Court office goes paperless



MONROE, La. – Ouachita Parish Clerk of Court Dana Benson’s office recently dispensed with its practice of keeping paper copies of court filings, opting instead to launch a paperless filing system.

Benson’s office launched its paperless, electronic filing or e-filing, system on April 7. The new e-filing system would allow anyone, whether they are an attorney or not, to file court documents and pay filing fees with a personal credit card instead of cash or check.

“We’ve never had the ability to do that before,” Benson told The Ouachita Citizen last week. “Just a layperson on the street can file it, and we can take their personal credit card to cover the fees.”

The Clerk of Court’s office made the transition to an e-filing system through software developed by I3 Software and Services in Shreveport. Ouachita Parish is one of a handful of parishes throughout the state, including East Baton Rouge and Lafayette, to adopt an e-filing system.

“Louisiana is not known for being on the cutting edge of technology, but that’s changing,” said Ryan Huvall, with I3 Software and Services.

According to Benson, the paperless system simply means that any document brought to the Clerk of Court’s office will be scanned, processed and made available in the Clerk of Court’s online record through ClerkConnect.

“Once the document is filed, we’re going to scan it and it becomes an electronic document,” Benson said.

Alyssa Egly, with I3 Software and Services, said the e-filing system meant there would be no change for people who walk into the office to file documents.

“We’re not walking documents around,” Benson added.

Benson noted she had pledged to institute a paperless filing system during her campaign for Clerk of Court.

“That’s my responsibility, to preserve these records,” Benson said. “The law allows us to do this. We have nowhere else to store paper files. Our storage is a warehouse without climate control, and you know what that does to paper.”

Gary Shelton, with I3 Software and Services, several courthouses shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing clerk of court offices to reconsider how documents were filed and made available to the public.

“Everything’s paperless,” Benson said. “There will be no more file folders. If you walk it in, we’re not going to keep it. The official document is the electronic filing. I’m not saying everybody has to e-file, but it’s an option.”

According to Benson, the change to an e-filing system meant deputy clerks could save time and reduce their workload, allowing them to process documents faster.

The new e-filing system also would allow filing of court documents after business hours, Benson said.

“If a document is filed at 7:30 p.m., it’s still filed that day, as long as it was e-filed, whereas before, it had to be filed at the clerk’s office before we closed for the day,” Benson said.

Prior to the launch of the paperless system, The Ouachita Citizen reviewed numerous civil proceedings in the online ClerkConnect system and found delays in the processing of documents of up to a month, meaning those documents could not be viewed electronically.

When asked about the delay, Benson said, “They are working on redaction and getting caught up.”

Benson clarified that “redaction” meant redacting or erasing Social Security numbers from mortgages and deeds and other court documents.

After addressing a few hiccups in the launch of the new e-filing system, the processing of court documents would happen much quicker than in the past, according to Benson.

Benson said the new e-filing system would include an electronic stamped copy in a receipt emailed to the person filing the document. Since each court document would have a tracking number, the document could be tracked, wherever it went, according to Benson.

“Once we open it, it shoots them a receipt,” Benson said. “It has a tracking system, which is awesome. There will be no more arguments about where a document is. We can track it and see every person who has received the document.”

This new e-filing system meant documents requiring a judge’s signature would automatically be sent to the judge’s judicial assistant, or JA, Benson explained.

“If it’s something they need to sign, it will tell them to sign here,” Benson said. “The JA, she’ll fill in the court dates, she may even date the day the judge signs the document, and then she sends it down to the clerk’s office.”