E-filing already is used in state mass-litigation cases. During the pilot period, attorneys will not be charged a fee for e-filing, like they are to file electronically for mass litigation.
"From what I've seen of it, although I've only had one very small meeting, I think it will be a very good thing," said Braxton County Circuit Clerk Susan Lemon, whose office already uses the Software Systems program.
"The biggest improvement I think we will see, and it will probably take a while to get to that, is that, essentially, we will go paperless," Lemon said. "In that regard, we are bursting at the seams right now; it's going to help us a lot, because we just don't have the space. We've got documents back into the 1800s. Our vault is full, as well as the entire top floor of our jail."
Lemon said she hopes the pilot program will be addressed more at the annual circuit clerk conference next week in Wheeling.
Gatson, the Kanawha circuit clerk, said the criminal case numbering system isn't used only in Kanawha County and is outlined in the circuit clerk's manual.
Canterbury agreed, noting that the manual is outdated.
"We're not going to run away from the errors we've made. We' should've been more on top of the errors and ahead of this sooner than we were," he said. "The errors made by Judge Webster pretty much forced us to look into it in more detail, but that's OK. This is a good outcome."
As for Webster, investigators reviewed her docket and said that, between Feb. 28 and March 8, the judge wrote 28 orders, "some of which had to be issued in order to correct mistakes made in her earlier orders.
"Since the errors do not rise to the level of an ethics violation, however, the Court at this time can only alert all parties to do a better, more contemplative, error-free job with all court documents," Thursday's report states.
Webster previously told the Gazette that, on Feb. 28, she issued about 20 dismissal orders, mostly for circuit court case numbers that she believed were either inactive or moot. In Carter's case, she intended to dismiss an irrelevant motion for a psychiatric evaluation. Prosecutors told her she actually dropped the entire case, and that Carter had been released from the South Central Regional Jail.
The judge said that when she learned of the mistake, she immediately issued a warrant to have Carter rearrested and met with law enforcement to rectify the situation. Carter was located and rearrested.
Webster issued a statement Thursday evening on the investigation into her docket and applauded the announcement of the e-filing system, which she said will "serve as a catalyst for much needed modernizations of the circuit clerk filing and docket systems throughout the state.
"A judge's criminal docket alone generates a substantial number of court orders which must be processed by the circuit clerk's office on a daily basis," she said. "To that end, I am glad the Supreme Court's findings re-affirm that any mistake or error was procedural in nature, and that the same was addressed and corrected in an expeditious manner. I also welcome its further conclusion that there was no evidence of any ethical or legal wrongdoing."
Staff writer Lydia Nuzum contributed to this report.
Reach Kate White at kate.wh...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.