69 of 82 Chancery courts, 46 of 82 Circuit courts, and 17 of 22 County courts are online with MEC.
During the 2020 session, the Mississippi Legislature passed House Bill 25 which directed that Mississippi courts were to have their records online by July 1, 2021.
On June 30, 2020, Governor Tate Reeves signed House Bill 25 into law. HB 25 mandates the use of the MEC system in all Chancery, Circuit, and County Courts in the state. The MEC team continues to bring new courts onto the system with the support of the new law.
The law stated that it will require, “Each circuit, chancery and county court in this state to require all pleadings and other papers to be served, filed, signed or verified by electronic means in conformity with the Mississippi electronic court system procedures…”
Planning for MEC began in 2005. The Mississippi Supreme Court began the move to extensively evaluate, test, and implement electronic filing and case management in Mississippi courts. Starting in May 2008 with the Madison County Chancery Clerk’s office, local courts have been testing a version of the federal Case Management/Electronic Case Filing (CM/ECF) system, now referred to as the Mississippi Electronic Courts (MEC) system.
Through the MEC system, judges, court staff, attorneys, and the public will have electronic access to docket information, the ability to obtain documents, view case management data, and other case information at any time of day. The annual registration fee to view electronically filed court document online through Public Access Mississippi Electronic Case Management system (PAMEC) is $10. Viewing documents costs 20 cents per page.
You can click here for a link to registration.
Only eligible attorneys and court staff may remotely access files in the following kinds of cases: debt collection; garnishment; replevin; child custody/visitation; child support; divorce; termination of parental rights; birth certificate correction; conservatorship; guardianship; minor’s settlement; and protection from domestic abuse.
“This system was designed to help and allow lawyers interact with courts. This system that we have in place is broader than just designed for lawyers. The interesting thing about this system to me is from a constitutional stand point. The constitution calls for open courts and ever since I’ve been on this court, the Supreme Court has worked very hard to make sure that open courts has stayed in the Constitution,” Chief Justice Michael K. Randolph told Y’all Politics. “I look forward to working with the legislature and working with the courts.”
Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James Maxwell explained that much of his district employs a different filing system. In other words, while most counties in North Mississippi use some sort of electronic case filing, it is not uniform.
“The judges, attorneys, and court staff in the districts that employ the MEC system have really enjoyed it. Attorneys can file documents and pleadings from their office or home. And it is very easy to access electronic docket information,” stated Maxwell. “It certainly cuts down the need to run to the courthouse or dig through boxes or cabinets full of files. You can find what you’re looking for using your computer.”
Maxwell says the judges, attorneys, and court staff in the districts that employ the MEC system have really enjoyed it.
“Attorneys can file documents and pleadings from their office or home. And it is very easy to access electronic docket information,” Justice Maxwell continued. “It certainly cuts down the need to run to the courthouse or dig through boxes or cabinets full of files. You can find what you’re looking for using your computer.”
As of August 30, 2021, 69 of 82 Chancery courts (covers 86.75% of the Mississippi population); 46 of 82 Circuit courts (covers 68.62% of the Mississippi population); and 17 of 22 County courts are online with MEC.
Lack of staffing is said to be the reason behind the slow merging of court documents. The electronic courts system director Nathan Evans reported that each month 1-2 courts can be integrated into the electronic courts system and may take up to three years to full transition the remaining courts into the MEC system.
Chief Justice Randolph told Y’all Politics that he talked to Representative Trey Lamar, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, about it earlier this week.
“If they could help with funding, then our staff can try to do it in two years instead of three,” said Randolph.
COVID-19 has created challenges for MEC in bringing new courts onto the MEC system during 2020. MEC’s in-person training programs were re-engineered and taken completely online/remote. MEC was able to continue bringing on new courts in 2020 and 2021 by providing remote training to court staff, judges, and attorneys.
Director Evans told Y’all Politics that it takes about three weeks to train the court staff, judges, and attorneys in the court typically. In a lot of these districts, they might find 5-6 different third-party court systems that are already in place that they need to get data and documents from to bring over to MEC so that they do not have to use two systems once they come on MEC.
Evans said that after the mandate last year, they have seen more courts interested in coming aboard the electronic filing system. With additional funding and training, the court staff, judges, and attorneys will have the ability to further understand the system and transfer court documents in two years rather than three.
When asked about the possible funding, Chief Justice Randolph said that if during session the Legislature decided to approve the funding, in roughly two years they would make every effort to make the conversion to the online system. The only thing that slows down the process is training, which takes about three weeks.
“If we received favorable treatment by the legislature, that would start the funding process in the new fiscal year which would be next July 1,” stated Randolph.