Attorneys practicing in Indiana are well aware that Indiana courts and administrative agencies are moving to “mandatory” electronic filing. The Indiana Supreme Court’s e-filing project is rolling along, with e-filing now mandatory (except upon a petition showing good cause) for the Supreme Court and Appellate Courts and over twenty counties. More county courts are going “E” every month. By 2018, e-filing will be mandatory in all circuit courts in Indiana. The specific schedule is available at http://www.in.gov/judiciary/4273.htm. In addition, some administrative agencies such as the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (“IURC”) are also moving to mandatory e-filing. See IURC RM-15-02.
As an attorney practicing in a major metropolitan area with ample access to high-speed internet, I welcome this transition. Many (probably most) attorneys have been exchanging documents and information electronically for many years. The world is going digital, and the ability to e-file court and agency documents is, to be frank, rather 2001. But would I welcome mandatory e-filing with such open arms if I practiced in a small town or rural area in Indiana, as many of our distinguished colleagues do?
Rural broadband access is a hot topic these days. At the national level, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has made broadband access a priority. The FCC’s 2016 Broadband Progress Report notes “there continues to be a significant disparity of access to advanced telecommunications capability across America with more than 39 percent of Americans living in rural areas lacking access to advanced telecommunications capability, as compared to 4 percent of Americans living in urban areas….” 2016 Broadband Progress Report at 3, GN Docket No. 15-191, Jan. 29, 2016. I represent a number of rural electric cooperatives who serve much of the rural territory in Indiana. The cooperatives and their members are acutely aware that significant portions of rural Indiana lack access to high-speed internet. For attorneys that live or practice in these areas, “mandatory” e-filing could present a challenge.