Where rubber meets the road, e-filing may hurt bike messengers
Civil cases • New rules will impact couriers, state court clerical staff.
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It's a common scene on the first floor of the Matheson Courthouse: a man with no time to take the helmet off his head pulls a stack of papers from a backpack and places them on the counter. Then he's off for another delivery.

The city's bike messengers pedal through the summer's heat and winter's snow, but they face a more serious test as the state's courts move into the future.

Last week, court decision makers set April 1 next year as the deadline for attorneys to move to an electronic-only filing system for civil cases. Probate cases must follow by July 1.

Adam Madetzke, owner of Salt City Couriers, says he is unsure what that will mean for his business and his messengers.

"It is a little nerve-wracking, waiting to see how it will play out," he says.

Madetzke's business delivers by bike and car for payroll, advertisement and medical companies, to name a few. But for downtown bike messengers, it's legal filings that keep them moving.

"Law firms are usually the bread and butter," Madetzke said. "It's going to be a bummer."

The switch to e-filings will mean substantial benefits for Utah's courts. The switch could free up nearly 60 clerical positions across the state.

"When it's e-filed, they don't have to create a file. The computer does that. The filing fees are automated," Deputy Court Administrator Ray Wahl told the Judicial Council last month. "You can imagine how much time savings there would be."

Officials say those positions could be left open through attrition, while others could be trained for new jobs.

Madetzke hopes it doesn't mean cuts for his business as well.

The federal courts have been using electronic filing for several years and Madetzke said his couriers might make one trip each day to the federal courthouse "if we're lucky." His bike messengers, meanwhile, might make 20 trips to the Matheson Courthouse on a busy day.

"We're diverse enough. We don't just do legal only," he said. "But it's pretty significant in terms of pedal guys."

Jason Copier, president of Legal Messengers Inc., has been awaiting the mandatory e-filing rule for some time.

"It will affect that aspect of our business," he said. Legal filings are "something we're well trained to do. But we're always diversifying and we're fairly confident there are other avenues of business."

afalk@sltrib.com