The clerk of court may maintain the official court record in electronic format or in a combination of electronic and nonelectronic formats. Documents filed by traditional methods shall be electronically scanned and made part of the official record. The clerk of court may discard the paper copy pursuant to SCR 72.03
(3). If a document submitted by traditional methods is not of sufficient graphical quality to be legible when electronically scanned into the electronic filing system, the clerk shall maintain the document in paper format.
Any official court record containing electronically filed documents must meet the operational standards set by SCR 72.05
for electronic records.
The clerk of court shall make the public portions of the electronic record available through a public access terminal located in the clerk's office. The clerk of court shall charge for copies of pages from the electronic record under ss. 814.61 (10)
and 814.66 (1) (h)
Certified copies of an electronic record shall be obtainable from the clerk of court's office by traditional methods, as provided by s. 889.08
If a document is filed by traditional methods, the submitting party shall file a copy of that document and not the original paper document. The court may require the submitting party to produce the original paper document if validity of the signature or document is challenged.
Electronic placement of the clerk's filing stamp and case number on each copy of an initiating document constitutes authentication under the statutes and court rules. An authenticated copy may be printed from the consolidated court automation program case management system by the clerk of court or from the electronic filing system by the filing party.
If a document is required to be notarized, acknowledged, verified, or made under oath, the requirement is satisfied if the electronic signature of the person authorized to administer the oath or to make the notarization, acknowledgment, or verification, together with all other information required to be included by other applicable law, is attached to or logically associated with the document. A physical or electronic image of a stamp, impression, or seal need not accompany the electronic signature. The electronic signature and notary seal may be applied to the document's transmittal page.
Notaries public who hold valid appointments under ch. 137
may register with the electronic filing system for authorization to notarize electronically filed documents. To register, notaries must be able to meet the technical requirements of the electronic filing system. Upon receipt of a properly executed notary agreement, the electronic filing system shall assign to the notary a confidential electronic signature and seal. The notary signature and seal shall be used only by the notary to whom it is assigned. Upon learning that the confidentiality of the signature and seal have been inadvertently or improperly disclosed, the notary shall immediately report that fact through the electronic filing system Web site.
Documents notarized by traditional methods may be filed through the electronic filing system if a handwritten signature and physical seal appear on the original document. The user shall submit a scanned copy of the notarized document to the electronic filing system, and the court shall maintain the scanned document as the official court record. The court may require the submitting party to produce the original paper document if validity of the notarization is challenged.
Other officers authorized by law to perform notarial acts may do so by application of their electronic signatures if those signatures are already provided through the electronic filing system.
The electronic signature and seal provided for notaries public by the electronic filing system satisfy the self-authentication provisions of s. 909.02
Users shall be provided with an electronic signature that can be executed by the user with the intent to sign a document. The electronic signature shall be treated as the user's personal original signature for all purposes under the statutes and court rules. Each document electronically signed shall bear that person's name, mailing address, telephone number, and state bar number if applicable. If a statute requires a signature at a particular location on a form, the user shall insert the user's printed name and an indication that the document has been electronically signed. The electronic signature may be applied to the document's transmittal page.
A summons and complaint, petition, or other initiating document that is electronically signed in compliance with this section bears a sufficient signature under s. 802.05
An electronic signature shall be used only by the user to whom it is assigned. Upon learning that the confidentiality of the electronic signature has been inadvertently or improperly disclosed, the user shall immediately report that fact through the electronic filing system.
Attorneys are responsible for electronically filed documents to the same extent as for paper filings. Attorneys using the electronic filing system are subject to sanctions under s. 802.05
and contempt procedures under ch. 785
, and are subject to discipline for any violation of a duty to the court under the supreme court rules.
Self-represented parties are responsible for electronically filed documents to the same extent as for paper filings. Self-represented parties using the electronic filing system are subject to sanctions under s. 802.05
and contempt procedures under ch. 785
Documents containing signatures of third parties, such as affidavits, may be filed through the electronic filing system if a handwritten signature appears on the original document. The user shall submit a scanned copy of the signed document to the electronic filing system, and the court shall maintain the scanned signature as the official court record. The court may require the submitting party to produce the original paper document if validity of the signature is challenged.
If a document bearing a signature is filed by traditional methods, the filing party shall file a copy of that document and not the original paper document, as provided by sub. (9)
If the signature of a court official is required on a document, an electronic signature may be used. The electronic signature shall be treated as the court official's personal original signature for all purposes under Wisconsin statutes and court rules. Where a nonelectronic signature would be located on a particular order, form, letter, or other document, the official's printed name shall be inserted.
The electronic signature of a court official shall be used only by the official to whom it is assigned and by such designees as the official may authorize. The court official is responsible for any use of his or her electronic signature by an authorized designee.
A court official may delegate the use of his or her electronic signature to an authorized designee pursuant to the security procedures of the consolidated court automation program case management system. Upon learning that the confidentiality of the electronic signature has been inadvertently or improperly disclosed, the court official shall immediately report that fact to the consolidated court automation program. Court officials shall safeguard the security of their electronic signatures and exercise care in delegating the electronic signature.
The confidentiality of an electronic record, or an electronic or paper copy thereof, is the same as for the equivalent paper record. The electronic filing system may permit access to confidential information only to the extent provided by law. No person in possession of a confidential electronic record, or an electronic or paper copy thereof, may release the information to any other person except as provided by law.
If a document is confidential, it shall be identified as confidential by the submitting party when it is filed. The electronic filing system may require users to enter certain information, such as social security numbers, in confidential fields. The clerk of court is not required to review documents to determine if confidential information is contained within them.
If a user seeks court approval to make a document confidential, the user may electronically file the document under temporary seal pending court approval of the user's motion to seal.
The electronic filing system shall place a visible mark on documents identified as confidential.
A user whose filing is made untimely as a result of a technical failure may seek appropriate relief from the court as follows:
If the failure is caused by the court electronic filing system, the court shall grant appropriate relief upon satisfactory proof of the cause.
If the failure is not caused by the court electronic filing system, the court may grant appropriate relief upon satisfactory proof of the cause. Parties are responsible for timely filing of electronic documents to the same extent as filing of paper documents, with similar consequences for missed deadlines.
This subsection shall be liberally applied to avoid prejudice to any person using the electronic filing system in good faith.
Effective date note
This section is repealed eff. 7-1-16 by Sup. Ct. Order No. 14-03
Sup. Ct. Order No. 06-08
, 2008 WI 36, 305 Wis. 2d xxv; Sup. Ct. Order No. 08-20
, 2008 WI 106, 307 Wis. 2d xv; 2009 a. 276
; Sup. Ct. Order No. 12-05
, 2012 WI 112, filed 11-1-12, eff. 1-1-13; Sup. Ct. Order No. 14-03
, 2016 WI 29, filed 4-28-16, eff. 7-1-16.
Comment, 2008: Sub. (4) is intended to be consistent with the rules for facsimile transmissions under ss. 801.15 and 801.16.
Sub. (6) does not apply the general rule that most documents are considered served when they are mailed. Although documents are considered filed when they are accepted by the clerk and posted to the electronic filing website, the parties are notified of the posting by a notice sent to an electronic mail account. Because electronic mail is not yet as reliable as the United States Post Office, this subsection requires the filing party to revert to traditional service if the electronic mail notice is returned as undeliverable.
Sub. (6) (f) provides that the clerk of court may allow an existing case to be converted to electronic filing upon the request of a party, but the clerk is not required to do so.
Sub. (7) provides that most routine fees be paid electronically, including filing, motion, and docketing fees, fines and forfeitures, court costs, and court-ordered attorney fees. Larger fees and deposits, such as condemnation awards, may be paid by other methods if ordered by the court or agreed to by the clerk of court. Attorneys should consult the Rules of Professional Conduct, SCR 20:1.15 (e)
, with respect to the restrictions on electronic transactions from trust accounts.
Sub. (9) requires parties filing documents by traditional methods, such as by hand delivery or by mail, to submit copies instead of original documents, to allow the clerk to eliminate the paper file. Discarding the paper copy is consistent with the rule governing facsimile copies, s. 801.16 (2) (e), which provides that the faxed copy is the official record, and the original, if received, should be discarded. The rule does not require the submitting party to retain original paper documents. If there is likely to be a challenge to the validity of a signature or exhibit, parties may be well-advised to keep the original paper document. For a high-volume law practice, the economics may not support keeping paper originals when the remainder of the file is electronic, and parties may prefer to assume the risk of failure of proof.
801.17 AnnotationSCR 72.03
(3) provides that even when the clerk of court has electronically stored a court file, the clerk may not destroy the paper file until the time specified under SCR 72.03
(3) has expired.
Sub. (10) provides that electronic authentication satisfies the authentication requirements of Wisconsin Statutes, including ss. 801.02, 801.09 (4), and 909.02 (8). Statutory authentication requirements must be met upon filing of the summons and complaint in order to confer jurisdiction on the court. American Family Mut. Ins. Co. v. Royal Ins. Co.
, 167 Wis. 2d 524
, 534 (1992). The purpose of authentication is to give assurance by the clerk that copies served are true copies of filed documents and to provide the case number for future reference. J.M.S. v. Benson
, 91 Wis. 2d 526
, 532 (Ct. App. 1979), rev'd on other grounds
, 98 Wis. 2d 406
(1980). The security and verifiability provided by the electronic filing system satisfy the purposes of the authentication requirements under statutes and case law.
Sub. (11) is intended to satisfy the standards for electronic notarization set by ss. 137.19 (the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act) and 706.25 (2) (c) (the Uniform Real Property Electronic Recording Act). The rule should be interpreted flexibly to the extent that technical standards for electronic notarization evolve.
The function of the notary is to witness the signature and to administer an oath when one is required. See
ss. 706.07; 887.01; 887.03;
Kellner v. Christian
, 197 Wis. 2d 183
, 191 (1995). Notarial acts as defined by s. 706.07 (1) (c) include the ability to administer oaths, take acknowledgments and verifications, and authenticate or certify documents. The intent of this section is to allow notaries to perform traditional notarial functions using alternate technology, and to make them responsible for electronic notarization to the same extent they are responsible for traditional notarization. These functions may be performed not only by notaries public but also by a judge, clerk or deputy clerk of a court of record, or a court commissioner under s. 706.07 (3). This section provides that the electronic signature of one of these officials may be applied to a certificate of notarial acts certifying that the function was performed.
This section does not require the submitting party to retain original paper documents or exhibits bearing the notary's seal and signature. If there is likely to be a challenge to the validity of the notarization, parties may be well-advised to keep the paper copies. The court may require a party to produce the original paper document if validity of the notarization is challenged.
Sub. (12) adopts the definition of electronic signature appearing in ss. 137.11 (8) and 706.25 (1) (d). Consistent with s. 137.15 (4), it provides that if a law requires a signature, an electronic signature applied through the electronic filing system satisfies that requirement.
The Wisconsin legislature has affirmed the trend toward acceptance of electronic signatures in government records and commercial transactions. At the request of the Wisconsin Director of State Courts, 2003 Wisconsin Act 294
(the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act) exempted court filings from coverage in order to allow the court to develop its own technical and legal standards. This section now allows the electronic signing and filing of those documents described in s. 137.12 (2m), as well as all other documents filed with the court.
Compliance with this section satisfies the signature requirements of ss. 801.09 (3), 802.05 (1), and 805.07 (4) (a), as well as all other statutes and rules relating to court documents. Appellate decisions have reasoned that counsel's personal signature is necessary to confer jurisdiction on the court, to assure that the pleadings are well-grounded in law and fact, and to prevent the unauthorized practice of law. See Schaefer v. Riegelman
, 2002 WI 18
, 250 Wis. 2d 494
Novak v. Phillips
, 2001 WI App 156
, 246 Wis. 2d 673
, 680-81; Jadair, Inc. v. U.S. Fire Insurance Co.
, 209 Wis. 2d 187
, 211-12 (1997). For users of the electronic filing system, the identification procedures, security, and personal accountability provided by these rules are deemed to satisfy the purposes of a handwritten signature and all other signature requirements.
The intent of this section is to make attorneys and self-represented parties responsible for electronic filings to the same extent they are responsible for paper filings. For that reason, the rule does not include a provision allowing attorneys to reveal their electronic signatures to office staff so the staff can apply the signature; the attorney must review each electronically filed document and apply his or her electronic signature personally. The courts and the Office of Lawyer Regulation have a range of sanctions and disciplinary measures that will serve as an adequate deterrent to any misuse of electronic signatures.
This section does not require the submitting party to retain original paper documents bearing handwritten signatures. If there is likely to be a challenge to the validity of the signature, the submitting party may be well-advised to keep the original document.
Sub. (13) provides electronic signatures for those court officials whose duties require them to sign documents in circuit court case files, including circuit court judges, clerks of circuit court, registers in probate, juvenile clerks, and circuit court commissioners appointed under s. 757.68 and SCR 75.02
(1). Electronic signatures may also be provided for the chief justice and the director of state courts to use for assignment of judges pursuant to SCR 70.23
and 70.24. A district court administrator may be the designee of a chief judge for purposes of judicial assignment.
Under this section, court officials may allow an authorized staff member to apply the official's electronic signature at the official's specific direction. Appellate decisions have reasoned that counsel's personal signature is necessary to confer jurisdiction on the court, to assure that the pleadings are well-grounded in law and fact, and to prevent the unauthorized practice of law. No case has examined the signature requirements for court officials, and the reasoning behind previous decisions seems inapplicable. Each court official remains responsible for reviewing, revising and approving the document before the electronic signature is applied, and should be held accountable as if the document were signed personally. The electronic signature shall be applied in accordance with the provisions of SCR 70.42
Sub. (14) provides that the electronic filing system shall protect those case types made confidential by statutes. Within an open case type, certain documents may be sealed by statute, such as presentence reports, financial disclosure forms, psychological evaluations, and certain health care records. This section places the burden on the submitting party to identify those documents as confidential. Confidential information may also be contained within an otherwise open document, such as a trade secret; the burden is on the filing party to move to seal those documents. As an added protection, the electronic filing system will mark confidential documents in a way that will be visible on the computer screen and when the documents are printed.
Sub. (15) addresses technical failures of the court's electronic filing system or the user's electronic systems. Technical failures may include an error in the transmission of the document to the electronic filing system or to a served party, a failure to process the document upon receipt by the electronic filing system, or erroneous exclusion of a party from the service list by the electronic filing system.
Correction of technical failures should generally be allowed in order to encourage the use of the electronic filing system. Correction should be automatic where the user can demonstrate that the problem was caused by the court's electronic filing system. The electronic filing system will generate a report if needed for a user to document the problem. Where the failure is caused by the user's electronic systems (such as electronic mail, word processing, or a database program) or by external forces (such as problems with the user's Internet service provider or power outages), the court has the discretion to correct the problem. The court should consider what consequences would follow a missed deadline for traditional filings, caused by forces such as malfunctioning equipment or traffic delays. The committee considered limiting the court's discretion to correct technical errors in the filing of initiating documents, where untimely filing is a jurisdictional issue, but decided against creating a bright-line rule because of occasional exceptions such as St. John's Home of Milwaukee v. Continental Casualty Co.
, 147 Wis. 2d 764
, 788-89 (Ct. App. 1988) and Granado v. Sentry Ins.
, 228 Wis. 2d 794
, 799 (Ct. App. 1999).
Paperless Courts: E-Filing in Wisconsin Circuit Courts. Bousquet & Vandercook. Wis. Law. July 2008.
Electronic filing. 801.18(1)(a)
"Clerk of court" means the official circuit court recordkeeper for the case in question, which may be the clerk of circuit court, juvenile clerk, or register in probate for that county.
"Converted" means that all documents in a paper case file have been imaged by the clerk of court and the case file is available to accept filings via the electronic filing system.
"Director" means the director of state courts.
"Document" means a pleading, form, notice, motion, order, affidavit, paper exhibit, brief, judgment, writ of execution, or other filing in an action.
"Electronic filing system" means an internet-accessible system established by the director for the purpose of filing documents with a circuit court, automatically integrating them into the court case management system, and electronically serving them on the parties.
"Electronic signature" means an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with a record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the document. For purposes of the electronic filing system, a document is electronically signed if it is submitted by or on behalf of a user or court official through the electronic filing system and bears the name of the user in the place where a signature would otherwise appear. "Electronic signature" includes only those signature technologies specifically approved by the director.
"High-volume filing agent" means a person authorized under s. 799.06 (2)
who appears on behalf of an entity filing 10 or more actions a year in the county where the action is being filed.
"Imaged document" means an electronic copy of a document originally created or submitted on paper.
"Initiating document" means a summons and complaint, petition, application, citation, criminal complaint, or any other document filed to commence a court action.
"Paper party" means a party who is not subject to sub. (3) (a)
who chooses not to participate in the electronic filing system as described in sub. (3) (c)
"Traditional methods" means those methods of filing and serving documents, other than electronic filing, provided under statutes and local rules.
"User" means an individual who has registered to use the electronic filing system under sub. (3)
. Users of the electronic filing system shall be individuals, not law firms, agencies, corporations, or other groups.
"Voluntary user" means a party who is not subject to sub. (3) (a)
who voluntarily registers to use the electronic filing system under sub. (3) (b)
The director of state courts shall implement an electronic filing system for the Wisconsin circuit courts. The requirements of this section shall govern the electronic filing of documents in all types of actions and proceedings in circuit court.
Mandatory use of the electronic filing system shall be phased in according to a schedule set by the director until the system has been fully implemented. The director shall make information about the transition schedule readily available to the public in advance of its application.
Subject to the schedule set by the director under par. (b)
, mandatory users shall be required to use the electronic filing system for all new filings covered by the schedule. Electronic filing shall be required for all new actions brought in circuit court and for all new documents submitted in previously filed cases, except as otherwise provided in this section.
After July 1, 2016 and prior to the date that electronic filing becomes mandatory under par. (b)
, parties may choose to electronically file actions and documents under the provisions of this statute or may continue to file by traditional methods.
Electronic filing is limited to methods specifically approved by the director. The director may enter into an agreement with any state agency to allow electronic filing through a custom data exchange between the court case management system and the agency's automated information system. Parties using a custom data exchange are considered mandatory users and are subject to the requirements of this section.
The procedures in this section shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with existing procedures. This section is not intended to limit the director's approval of new technologies that accomplish the same functions.
The judges of the circuit court, the clerk of court, and all court staff shall cooperate and assist with the implementation of electronic filing.
This section does not address documents required by law to be filed with court officials that are not filed in an action before the court. These documents may be filed by traditional methods unless otherwise required by the director of state courts.
This section does not apply to filing of documents or transcripts with the court of appeals or supreme court.
Prior to the effective date of this section, the director may require that electronic filing be mandatory in one or more pilot counties for purposes of testing and improving the mandatory electronic filing system.
Subject to the schedule set by the director under sub. (2) (b)
, the following individuals shall register for access to the electronic filing system prior to filing documents in circuit court:
Licensed Wisconsin attorneys, other than those who are representing only themselves.