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September 8, 2013

N.H. prepares for electronic court filing

Electronic jury selection starts tomorrow

Whenever it’s time to pick a new jury at Rockingham Superior Court, the names of potential candidates are put on slips of paper and drawn from a box.

That’s the way juries have been chosen for decades, according to clerk Raymond Taylor. But that will change tomorrow, when the court implements a new electronic jury selection system.

Jurors will be selected by computer. Candidates asked to submit basic background information can file their questionnaires online, instead of mailing them and wondering if they were received on time.

It’s expected to reduce postage costs and save time for court staff and attorneys, Taylor said. Court employees will no longer have to pore through stacks of paper questionnaires with handwritten responses that are often difficult to read.

“It eliminates the whole paper shuffle,” Taylor said.

The system is just one of many improvements being made as the New Hampshire Judicial Branch embraces the electronic age.

It ramps up later this year when the state launches electronic filing of small-claims cases as part of the long-awaited e-Court Project.

The five-year initiative is expected to increase the efficiency of the court system through automation — cutting costs and improving customer service, according to project manager Peter Croteau.

Legal documents can be filed and signed electronically, and fines and fees could be paid online as well, he said.

E-Court will be beneficial to court staff, lawyers and especially the public, said Gina Apicelli, administrator of the circuit court system.

“E-Court will help people move through the process more quickly,” Apicelli said. “Cases will move more quickly. I think it’s going to expedite the time from beginning to end for cases.”

Documents could be filed from a home or office computer, she said, without rushing to the nearest courthouse and hoping to get there by the 4 p.m. closing time.

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