Currently, only a handful of courts throughout the State of Michigan allow for the electronic filing of documents pursuant to Michigan Supreme Court Orders, and the courts that do allow for electronic filing, do not use a single system for electronic filings.
On September 30, 2015, Senate Bills 531, 532, and 533 were introduced into the Michigan legislature, proposing the creation and funding of a single, state-wide court electronic filing system. These bills would create a Judicial Electronic Filing Fund (JEFF) within the Michigan Treasury which would support the implementation, operation, and maintenance of the single, state-wide electronic filing system.
JEFF would be funded by the charging of an electronic filing system fee. This fee would be charged to all civil actions filed in the State of Michigan, regardless of whether the action was electronically filed. This fee would be in addition to the current filing fees set forth by MCL 600.8371 and MCL 600.2529(a). The proposed electronic filing system fees are as follows: $10.00 for District Court filings, $20.00 for District Court filings if a claim for money damages is joined with a claim for other relief, $25.00 for Circuit Court filings, and $5.00 for small claims filings. As a result, the filing fee for all civil actions filed in the State of Michigan would have a modest increase.
Notably, the electronic filing fee would be the only fee that would be permitted to be charged to or collected in a civil action, specifically for electronic filing. The bills would thus eliminate the current transaction fees which are charged each time any document is electronically filed, but does provide a phase out period for those courts that currently charge these fees pursuant to Michigan Supreme Court Orders.
Of particular importance, the proposed bills specifically provide that the electronic filing system fee paid by a party is a recoverable, taxable cost. Thus, creditors will be able to recover the expense by including the cost of the electronic filing system fee as court costs in judgments.
The proposed bills would also permit the courts to charge those who pay the filing fees with a credit card an automated payment service fee which would be required to be no more than the actual amount that the credit card issuer charges the court or 3%, whichever is less. This provision thereby eliminates the charging of the fixed "convenience fees" that are charged to those who pay filing fees with credit cards.
Additionally, the bills as proposed would prohibit the charging of any fees to retrieve and inspect filed documents at the courts, but would still allow the courts to charge fees to copy a document.
While there would be a modest cost increase in filing fees, the proposed bills are good news for creditors who file many civil actions throughout the State of Michigan. The bills eliminate the transaction fees that are not taxable to debtors and replace them with a single, taxable electronic filing system fee. A single, electronic filing system will also reduce postage and labor costs and accelerate the filing of civil actions.
Since the bills are newly introduced, changes to the bills could happen as they work their way through the legislature's process prior to enactment. Weltman will continue to monitor this proposed legislation and provide updates as they become available.