Although it took some time, Chris has won me over. He and his staff have worked very hard at bringing so many records online for easy viewing. They have also made exponential leaps in making E-Filing more and more convenient and accessible for attorneys.
As much as I love all the new technology, there are still a couple of kinks in the system that have to be worked out -- for instance, if you need a quick Motion for Continuance in a Court and they only accept e-filings, how do you get that done when you are away from your computer?
Today's complaint is about the E-Subpoena -- not so much about how the District Clerk's Office handles them, but how the Sheriff's Office does.
I've only filed an E-Subpoena on a handful of occasions. The first one I did was pretty straight-forward until I got to the portion that asked how I wanted the subpoena served.
In my case, I had a subpoena duces tecum (a subpoena for records). I wasn't expecting a problem, so having the subpoena served by standard channels was fine by me.
I selected "Peace Officer" and got this response:
Well, I wasn't requesting personal delivery. Mailing the subpoena or however they wanted to do it would have been just fine with me. So ultimately I clicked "Private" and just had my investigator pick up the damn subpoena and serve it.
A few weeks later, I had a case where I decided that I needed personal service on it. I'll change the facts up a little for Attorney-Client privilege purposes.
Let's say that the client was accused of stealing something at a place of business where there were security cameras around. One of those security cameras is right where the crime was allegedly committed. So, I send a subpoena to that business asking for the video footage.
I ask for the Sheriff's Office to file it.
I never hear anything back from the business, so after a few weeks, I call them for a follow-up. The very nice lady on the phone tells me that she had already contacted me and let me know that there was no such video footage. She insists that she e-mailed me at the listed e-mail address on the subpoena.
I asked her if she would mind forwarding that e-mail to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and she agreed to do so.
As she noted, she very dutifully had notified the e-mail address on the subpoena:
Now, there are two problems with this e-mail she sent. First of all the "name written on the subpoena" was my client's name. The Defendant's name is always on the subpoena. My subpoena had requested film footage. It wasn't specific to a person -- it was specific to a place. The business clearly misunderstood and did a records search for my client and found nothing. That was no surprise to me, since my client would not have any legitimate purpose for being there.
The second problem is that they weren't e-mailing me about the problem, they were e-mailing the Sheriff's Office.
That could have been handled easily if the Sheriff's Department had forwarded along the e-mail.
Instead, they did this:
Um, yeah, the ADA (Assistant District Attorney) didn't subpoena those records. The Defense Attorney did. Additionally, it wasn't an incorrect filing. It was perfectly fine. It was just misunderstood.
None of this information would have ever been learned if I hadn't called the business and asked what was going on with my subpoena.
This is definitely a kink that needs to be worked out between the Sheriff's Office and the District Clerk. If subpoenas are going to be issued solely by E-Filing, then they need to be reliable. If I had been issuing a subpoena for a person's attendance in court (rather than records), I would have been asking the Judge of the Court to issue a Writ of Attachment for the missing witness.
I don't know that a Judge would have been comfortable in doing so with such an unreliable system in place.
I'm all for the E-Filing and E-Subpoena System. It is so much easier to issue subpoenas from my office rather than handwriting them out in court. Chris Daniel and the Clerk's Office are headed in the right direction with it.
There are just some things that need to be fixed and fixed quickly.