The Family Court of Australia (FCA) and Federal Circuit Court (FCC) have announced that sealed court orders are available for download, in another step towards fully integrated court e-services.
Electronic access to the sealed orders is part of a wider digital continuity policy being rolled out by the Australian government, with a view to taking all government agencies and most of their processes online by 2020.
A media statement issued by the FCA said that hard copies of sealed orders will no longer be mailed out.
Instead, lawyers can access court orders for their FCA or FCC matters by registering and logging into the Commonwealth Courts Portal. Exceptions to the e-access process include consent orders and appeals.
From 1 July, downloading electronic sealed orders from the portal is the only way for legal practitioners to access such orders made by federal jurisdiction courts.
According to the government’s Digital Continuity policy, all Australian agencies are being made to eventually transition all work processes to digital. This includes provision for relevant authorisations and approvals to be made electronically and the storage of all information assets in digital format.
Practitioners are the first group to be affected by the change, but digital access will be the only option available to parties from the start of next year.
As part of the policy, the courts, along with all other federal agencies, have developed a framework for “information governance” as well as policies, processes, standards, controls and metrics to manage the risks of the digital age.
The whole point is to do away with paper-reliant processes and improve efficiencies with modern digital offerings.
“Digital information kept in paper and other analogue forms can result in inefficiencies such as unnecessary duplication, increased storage costs, and unreliable or inaccessible information that cannot be easily found and cost-effectively shared or backed up for business continuity,” the policy said.
“Digital information that is kept in digital form is more usable and can be shared more easily and at less cost.”
The change to accessing orders in FCA and FCC matters will not affect any orders made before 1 July 2017, where the ordinary process of applying to the court for a hard copy should be made. In these cases, the usual $30 fee will apply.