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Chapter 3 - Filing and Service of Pleadings

3.7 - Electronic Filing Pilot Program

(a) Generally

OCAHO is currently conducting a voluntary electronic filing pilot program which allows parties in enrolled cases to file and serve case documents by email.

(b) Eligibility to Participate

An opportunity to participate in the pilot program will be offered in all OCAHO cases filed after May 30, 2014. Enrollment in the pilot program is limited to those cases in which all parties to the case agree to participate and certify that they and/or their representatives have access to the necessary technology and agree to follow the procedures and instructions for the pilot program. Necessary technology includes:

  • access to a scanner that can create documents in portable document format (PDF);
  • up-to-date software for creating and reading PDF documents; and
  • an email account that can send and receive email attachments up to 10 megabytes in size.

(c) Procedures for Participation

After OCAHO receives the answer from the respondent in a case, OCAHO will send an invitation to participate in the pilot program to all parties in the case. The invitation will include specific instructions outlining the procedures for the pilot program as well as a certification form the parties must complete and sign in order to participate in the pilot program.

For a case to be enrolled in the pilot program, each party must submit the signed certification form in hard copy to OCAHO and serve a copy of the certification on the opposing party. The certification must:

  • identify the email address the party will use for all case-related communications and submissions;
  • certify that only authorized individuals will have access to that email address;
  • attest that the party has access to the necessary technology; and
  • consent to abide by the specific procedures for filing and service outlined in the electronic filing instructions that were sent to each party.

If all parties to a case agree to participate in the pilot and meet the certification requirements, they will be notified by mail and email that their case has been accepted into the pilot program. Thereafter, all case documents must be filed with OCAHO and served on the other parties in the case by email.

All documents submitted under the pilot program that require a signature (including motions, briefs, and other pleadings) must include a handwritten, scanned signature. All files submitted by email must be in PDF.

For cases enrolled in the pilot program, all decisions and orders issued by the ALJ (or, in cases of administrative review, the CAHO) will be signed, scanned, and emailed to all parties in the case in PDF.

(d) Instructions for Electronic Filing

      (1) Enrollment in the Pilot Program - Within 10 days of receipt of a letter from the ALJ, along with a registration form and certification and these instructions, each party must file a registration form and certification, in hard copy with simultaneous service on the opposing party, designating one primary email address for purposes of sending and receiving case-related documents. A party may elect to designate secondary email addresses for sending documents only (see paragraph (d)(2) below). Each party must certify the following by original, handwritten signature:

  • that the designated primary email address will be monitored regularly by the party or attorney in the case and submissions to OCAHO will be sent using only the designated primary or secondary email address; if changed, this email address will be updated promptly by notice filed with OCAHO and simultaneously served on the opposing party;
  • that the designated email address and all documents sent and received in the case will be accessible only to authorized individuals;
  • that all communications and submissions in the case from the designated email address will be made by (or at the direction and with the approval of) the party or representative;
  • that the party has access to the technology necessary to fully comply with the instructions for electronic filing;
  • that, if and when necessary, the party will register at the Department of Justice ProofPoint secure mail decryption site to retrieve encrypted messages;
  • that the party agrees to accept electronic service of case-related documents in the case from the opposing party and from OCAHO at the designated email address;
  • that the party affirms that all signatures on filings are genuine and are made with the intent to ratify and authenticate the contents of those documents; and
  • that the party consents to accept scanned signatures from OCAHO and the opposing party on case-related documents as the equivalent of physical signatures.

      (2) Secondary Email Addresses - Parties may designate secondary email addresses for sending case-related documents to OCAHO. In order to designate a secondary email address, the individual responsible for that email address must submit the certification described in paragraph (d)(1) above (and indicate on the certification that the address is a secondary email address). Once this certification has been submitted, the designated secondary email address will be allowed to send documents to OCAHO in accordance with the instructions. However, secondary email addresses will not be added to the service list, and thus will not receive service of case-related documents from OCAHO or the opposing party.

      (3) Filing Documents by Email - Once a case is enrolled in the electronic filing pilot program, all case-related documents must be submitted to OCAHO by sending an email to the designated OCAHO email address. Only those documents attached to an email directed to the appropriate email address and emailed simultaneously to the opposing party will be considered filed. The email notifying the ALJ of the incoming case-related documents will serve as a cover letter. The case-related documents to be filed must be attached to that incoming email. Those case-related documents constitute the “filing.”

      (4) Format of Electronically-Filed Documents - Prior to transmission, all case-related documents to be filed must be converted to PDF. The PDFs should be created using up-to-date software to ensure that OCAHO and the opposing party will be able to open and read them properly.

      (5) Size of Documents - No email, including attachments, may exceed 10 megabytes (MB). If a case-related document is too large to be attached to one email, it must be separated into multiple, clearly-labeled, consecutively paginated attachments and sent in separate emails. There is no limit on the number of attachments as long as the email size does not exceed the 10 MB limit. Parties are permitted to send multiple emails. When multiple emails comprise a single submission, clearly indicate the order and total number in the “Subject” line of the email (for example, “In re: John Doe Prehearing Statement 1 of 3”). Case-related documents exceeding 50 pages in length, including exhibits to pleadings and briefs, must also be submitted to OCAHO in hard copy format in addition to the electronic transmission. However, a party is not required to serve a hard copy of such documents on the opposing party.

      (6) Signatures - Case-related documents submitted by email must include a signature. The signature must be a hand-written signature on the document that has been scanned. The signature will have the same effect as an original hand-written signature.

      (7) Effective Dates of Service and Filing - Service is complete when the email containing the case-related document is sent. A case-related document will be considered timely filed if the document containing the case-related document is received by OCAHO before midnight Eastern Time on the day the case-related document must be filed. A timestamp on the “sent” line of the email will be used to verify when the document was sent, taking into account any difference in the party’s time zone.

      (8) Certificate of Service - A certificate of service must be included in all case-related documents filed electronically.

      (9) Confirmation of Receipt - Parties may request confirmation that the ALJ has received case-related documents filed by email. To request confirmation, the filing party may either enable the “read receipt” tracking option on their email application when sending their email containing the case-related document or request that OCAHO staff reply to that email confirming its receipt.

      (10) Subpoenas - Parties may not file and serve third-party subpoenas electronically.

      (11) Service or Filing of Physical Copy When Necessary - At their discretion on a case-by-case basis, the ALJ may require parties enrolled in the pilot program to file and/or serve a physical copy of case-related documents in addition to the electronic copy (for example, if OCAHO or a party is experiencing technical difficulties and is unable to email or access a document).