CaseLines: Electronic case management system implemented

February 1st, 2020
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As we enter a new decade, the Gauteng Division of the High Court, Pretoria and Johannesburg has made technological advances by implementing a digital/electronic case management and litigation system, named CaseLines. By the time you read this editorial, the CaseLines system will be fully implemented, as it was set to be implemented by 27 January. The system will function by way of case creation, party/legal representative invitation, document filing and uploading and case presentation. The system enables litigants to file and upload pleadings and other documents electronically and to present their case and argument during court proceedings.

Judge President of the Gauteng Division of the High Court, Dunstan Mlambo, issued Practice Directive 1 of 2020 detailing the implementation of CaseLines. In terms of this directive, Registrars are directed to create cases on the CaseLines system and, thereafter, invite parties and/or their legal representatives to each created case they are involved in. The directive further states:

‘3.5 The responsibility to upload pleadings and other relevant documents, in cases issued from the beginning of Term 1 of 2020, save for cases initiated in the Urgent Court roll, shall lie with the party responsible for each particular pleading/document in line with the Rules of Court. Electronic uploading of pleadings and other relevant documents in terms of this clause shall amount to filing as contemplated in the Rules of Court. Consequently, from the commencement of Term 1 2020, the filing of pleadings and other relevant documents shall be by way of the uploading of the said pleadings and other relevant documents on the CaseLines system. No hardcopy pleadings and other relevant documents shall be allowed on all cases designated for handling through the CaseLines system and created on the system. The exception shall be where the party(s) is unrepresented.’

In regard to judgments that are handed down subsequent to proceedings conducted on the CaseLines platform, all judges’ secretaries are to ensure that the judgments to such matters are uploaded onto CaseLines and linked to the cases concerned. The practice directive also states that judges’ secretaries are to ensure that the outcome of each case is recorded on the case’s CaseLines system cover page, to reflect the endorsement on the particular court file. In respect to all cases where a draft order is made an order of court, especially in the unopposed motion and civil trial courts, the Registrar shall stamp each draft order accepted as such by the judge on the same day. The judge’s secretary shall, thereafter, ensure that the stamped draft order is uploaded onto the respective case on the CaseLines system.

During a briefing session with stakeholders late last year, Judge President Mlambo noted that the manual system had many challenges such as the fact that files sometimes disappeared and that there were also instances of fraud taking place. He added: ‘Files will be able to be traced online, the system will also alert us to what happened to the file or who was responsible for the disappearing file’. He pointed out that the aim of CaseLines is to enable the efficiency and effectiveness of court administration by adding value through evidence management in High Courts across South Africa.

Judge President Mlambo said that implementing CaseLines, will be adding value by enabling all key role players within the court process to experience similar proceedings and high-quality customer service. ‘We want to ensure quality archiving and record management,’ Judge President Mlambo said. He pointed out that files will be stored on a secure and appropriate cloud storage system. ‘Key to it is that you can create a case on the system, or the Registrar will create the case, but we want the legal practitioners to assist us in uploading the cases on the system, it is a very easy process,’ he added.

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This article was first published in De Rebus in 2020 (Jan/Feb) DR 3.