AO No. 2011-6 — E-Filing in Oakland Probate Court

[Entered October 20, 2011; amended May 22, 2013, and December 23, 2015 (effective January 1, 2016). Text as amended by order entered December 23, 2015.]

On order of the Court, the Oakland County Probate Court is authorized to continue its e-filing project during a transition period while the State Court Administrative Office prepares and implements a statewide e-filing system. The Oakland County Probate Court is aware that rules regarding electronic filing have been published for comment by this Court. If this Court adopts electronic-filing rules during the pendency of the Oakland County Probate Court Electronic Document Filing Pilot Project, the Oakland County Probate Court will, within 60 days of the effective date of the rules, comply with the requirements of those rules. In addition, it is anticipated that the Oakland County Probate Court, along with other court locations that participated as e-filing pilot courts, will be among the first group of courts that will connect with any statewide system for purposes of testing and early integration.

The Oakland County Probate Court will report to and provide information as requested by the State Court Administrative Office.

1. Construction

The purpose of the transition period for e-filing is to review and potentially recommence e-filing efforts in the Oakland County Probate Court and to coordinate with state efforts, through a vendor or otherwise, to build and operate a statewide system of e-filing. The Oakland County Probate Court may exercise its discretion to grant necessary relief to avoid the consequences of error so as not to affect the substantial rights of the parties. Except for matters related to electronically filing or service of documents during the transition period, the Michigan Rules of Court govern all other aspects of the cases involved in the program.

2. Definitions

(a) “Register” means the Oakland County Probate Register.

(b) “E-filing” means any court pleading, motion, brief, response, list, order, judgment, notice, claims, inventories, accounts, reports, or other documents filed electronically pursuant to the program.

(c) “LAO” means all local administrative orders governing the Oakland County Probate Court.

(d) “MCR” means the Michigan Rules of Court.

(e) “Transition e-filing program” or “project” means the initiative by the Oakland County Probate Court in conjunction with the Oakland County Department of Information Technology, and in part with Tyler, Inc. (Wiznet), and under the supervision of the State Court Administrative Office. This e-filing application facilitates the electronic filing of pleadings, motions, briefs, responses, lists, orders, judgments, notices, claims, inventories, accounts, reports, and other documents during the period after enactment of statutory authority to fund and operate a statewide electronic filing system. The Oakland County program will begin testing with one probate judge with “DE”, “DA,” “TV,” and “CZ” case types. The court plans to expand the program to all probate judges as soon as practicable.

(f) “Technical malfunction” means any hardware, software, or other malfunction that prevents a user from timely filing a complete e-filing or sending or receiving service of an e-filing.

(g) “Wiznet envelope” means an electronic submission that contains one or more Wiznet transactions.

(h) “Wiznet transaction” means the submission of one or more related documents which results in a single register of actions entry.

3. Participation in the Program

(a) If the court recommences its efiling program, participation in the program shall be mandatory in all newly filed DE, DA, TV or CZ case types assigned to the participating probate judges. Participation shall begin following the filing of the initial petition, complaint or other initiating document, and assignment of the case to a participating judge pursuant to the court’s LAO. At the discretion of the judge, participation may also include post-disposition proceedings in qualifying case types assigned to participating judges.

(b) This is a mandatory e-filing project. It is presumed that all documents will be filed electronically. However, the Court recognizes that circumstances may arise that will prevent a party from e-filing. To ensure that all parties retain access to the Courts, parties that demonstrate good cause will be permitted to file their documents with the register’s office, who will then file the documents electronically. Among the factors that the Oakland County Probate Court will consider in determining whether good cause exists to excuse a party from mandatory e-filing are a party’s access to the Internet and indigency. A self-represented party is not excused from the project merely because the individual does not have counsel.

4. E-filings Submission, Acceptance, and Time of Service with the Court; Signature

(a) Program participants must submit e-filings pursuant to these rules and the program’s technical requirements. The register may, in accordance with MCR 8.119(C), reject documents submitted for filing that do not comply with MCR 5.113 or MCR 2.113(C)(2), are not accompanied by the proper fees, clearly violate Administrative Order No. 2006-2, do not conform to the technical requirements of this project, or are otherwise submitted in violation of a statute, an MCR, an LAO, or the program rules.

(b) E-filings may be submitted to the court at any time, but shall only be reviewed and accepted for filing by the Oakland County Probate Court during the normal business hours of the register’s office. E-filings submitted after business hours shall be deemed filed on the business day the e-filing is accepted for filing. The register’s office shall process electronic submissions on a first-in, first-out basis.

(c) E-filings shall be treated as if they were hand delivered to the court for all purposes under statute, court rule, and administrative order.

(d) A pleading, document, or instrument e-filed or electronically served under this rule shall be deemed to have been signed by the judge, register, attorney, party, or declarant.

(i) Signatures submitted electronically shall be scanned copies of the actual signed document, or shall use the following form for the signature: /s/John L. Smith.

(ii) A document that requires a signature under the penalty of perjury, or is required to be signed by the fiduciary or trustee under MCR 5.114(A)(3), is deemed signed by the declarant or fiduciary if, before filing, the declarant or fiduciary has signed a printed form of the document.

(iii) An e-filed document that requires a signature of a notary public is deemed signed by the notary public if, before filing, the notary public has signed a printed form of the document.

(e) The original of a sworn or verified document that is an e-filing (e.g., a verified pleading) or part of an e-filing (e.g. an affidavit, notarization, or bill of costs) must be maintained by the filing attorney or self-represented litigant and made available upon reasonable request of the court, the signatory, or opposing party.

(f) Proposed orders shall be submitted to the court in accordance with the provisions of the pilot program. The court and the register shall exchange the documents for review and signature pursuant to MCR 2.602(B).

(g) By electronically filing the document, the electronic filer indicates compliance with these rules.

5. Time for Service and Filing of Pleadings, Documents, and Motions; Judge’s Copies; Hearings on Motions; Fees

(a) All times for filing and serving filings shall be governed by the applicable statute, the MCR and the LAO as if the e-filings were hand delivered.

(b) The electronic submission of a motion and brief through this program satisfies the requirements of filing a judge’s copy where applicable under the MCR. A judge may require that one “courtesy copy” or “chambers copy” of any dispositive motion and all accompanying exhibits, as well as responses and replies, or any motion and brief in which the motion, brief, and attachments equal 40 pages or more be submitted directly to the judge’s chamber in paper format. Any exhibits must be appropriately tabbed. Good practice requires that in appropriate cases, relevant portions of lengthy documents be highlighted. A printed copy of the e-filing transmission receipt must be attached to the front of the pleading. The requirement to provide a “courtesy copy” or “chambers copy” at a judge’s request shall expire on May 22, 2018.

(c) Applicable fees, including e-filing fees and service fees, shall be paid electronically through procedures established by the Oakland County Probate Court at the same time and in the same amount as required by statute, court rule, or administrative order. Inventory fees shall be paid according to procedures established by the court.

6. Service

(a) All parties shall register as a service contact with the Tyler (Wiznet) application which will provide the court and opposing parties with one e-mail address with the functionality required for the program. All service shall originate from and be perfected upon this e-mail address.

(b) Unless otherwise agreed to by the court and the parties, all e-filings must be served electronically to the e-mail address of all interested parties. The subject matter line for the transmittal of document served by e-mail shall state: “Service of e-filing in case [insert caption of case].”

(c) The parties and the court may agree that, instead of e-mail service, e-filings may be served to the parties (but not the court) by other appropriate means under the MCR. For those choosing to accept facsimile service:

(i) the parties shall provide the court and the opposing parties with one facsimile number with appropriate functionality,

(ii) the facsimile number shall serve as the number to which service may be made,

(iii) the sender of the facsimile should obtain a confirmation of delivery, and

(iv) parties shall comply with the requirements of the MCR on the use of facsimile communication equipment.

(d) The court reserves the right to serve parties by traditional means, including facsimile, when necessary to ensure appropriate service of notices, opinions and orders, and other official court documents.

(e) Proof of Service shall be submitted to the Oakland County Probate Court according to the MCR and these rules.

7. Format and Form of E-filing and Service

(a) A party may only e-file documents for one case in each transaction.

(b) All e-filings shall comply with MCR 1.109 and the technical requirements of the court’s vendor and, after implementation, the vendor implementing the statewide e-filing system.

(c) Any exhibit or attachment that is part of an e-filing must be clearly designated and identified as an exhibit or attachment.

(d) All e-filings, subject to subsection 6(c) above, shall be served on the parties in the same format and form as submitted to the court.

8. Pleadings, Motions, and Documents Not to Be E-Filed

The following documents shall not be e-filed during the program and must be filed by the traditional methods provided in the MCR and the LAO:

(a) documents to be filed under seal (pursuant to court order),

(b) initiating documents,

(c) original documents which are required by statute to be filed with the court, such as wills submitted for probate. In such case, the document shall be e-filed using a copy of the document and the original shall be delivered to the court for filing within 14 days of the e-filing date,

(d) inventories that are being presented pursuant to MCL 700.3706,

(e) documents for case evaluation proceedings.

9. Official Court Record; Certified Copies

(a) For purposes of this program, the electronic version of all documents filed with the Court, with the exception of documents filed under seal, is the official court record. An appellate record for the Court of Appeals shall be certified in accordance with MCR 7.210(A)(1).

(b) Certified copies of e-filed documents shall be issued in the conventional manner by the Oakland County Probate Register in compliance with the Michigan Trial Court Case File Management Standards.

(c) At the conclusion of the program, if the program does not continue in some other format, the register shall convert all e-filings to paper form in accordance with MCR 8.119(D)(1)(d). Participating attorneys shall provide reasonable assistance in constructing the paper record.

(d) At the conclusion of the program, the register shall provide for record retention and public access in a manner consistent with the instructions of the court and the court rules.

10. Court Notices, Orders, and Judgments

At the court’s discretion, the court and register may issue, file and serve orders, judgments, and notices as e-filings.

11. Technical Malfunctions

(a) A party experiencing a technical malfunction with the party’s equipment (such as Portable Document Format [PDF] conversion problems or inability to access the program sites), another party’s equipment (such as an inoperable e-mail address), or an apparent technical malfunction of the court’s equipment, software, or server shall use reasonable efforts to timely file or receive service by traditional methods and shall provide prompt notice to the court and the parties of any such malfunction.

(b) If a technical malfunction has prevented a party from timely filing, responding to, or otherwise perfecting or receiving service of an e-filing, the affected party may petition the Oakland County Probate Court for relief. Such petition shall contain an adequate proof of the technical malfunction and set forth good cause for failure to use non-electronic means to timely file or serve a document. The court shall liberally consider proof of the technical malfunction and use its discretion in determining whether such relief is warranted.

12. Privacy Considerations

(a) Social Security Numbers. Pursuant to Administrative Order No. 2006-2, full social security numbers shall not be included in e-filings. If an individual’s social security number must be referenced in an e-filing, only the last four digits of that number may be used and the number specified in substantially the following format: XXX-XX-1234.

(b) Parties should exercise caution when filing papers that contain private or confidential information, including, but not limited to, the information covered above and listed below:

1. Medical records, treatment and diagnosis;

2. Employment history;

3. Individual financial information;

4. Insurance information;

5. Proprietary or trade secret information;

6. Information regarding an individual’s cooperation with the government; and

7. Personal information regarding the victim of any criminal activity.

13. If the e-filing program is recommenced, the Oakland Probate Court shall file an annual report with the Supreme Court covering the project to date by January 1 of each year (or more frequently or on another date as specified by the Court) that outlines the following:

(a) Detailed financial data that show the total amount of money collected in fees for documents filed or served under the project to date, the original projections for collections of fees, and whether the projections have been met or exceeded.

(b) Detailed financial information regarding the distribution or retention of collected fees, including the amount paid to Tyler per document and in total for the subject period, the amount retained by the court per document and in total for the period, and whether the monies retained by the court are in a separate account or commingled with other monies.

(c) A detailed itemization of all costs attributed to the project to date and a statement of whether and when each cost will recur.

(d) A detailed itemization of all cost savings to the court whether by reduced personnel or otherwise and a statement of whether any cost savings to the court are reflected in the fee structure charged to the parties.

14. Amendment

Procedural aspects of these rules may be amended upon the recommendation of the participating judges, the approval of the chief judge, and authorization by the State Court Administrator. Proposed substantive changes, including, for example, a proposed expansion of the program to permit additional case types and a proposed change in fees, must be submitted to the Supreme Court for approval.

15. Expiration

This program, requiring parties to electronically file documents in cases assigned to participating judges, shall continue until further order of the Court.