eCourts debuts today in 12 Eastern Carolina counties

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – Twelve Eastern North Carolina county court systems are launching an online filing software Monday.

eCourts was integrated into Raleigh’s Wake County and three surrounding counties: Lee, Harnett, and Johnston in February 2023 and in Charlotte’s Mecklenburg County in October.

Today Beaufort, Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hyde, Martin, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell, and Washington will start using it in their court systems.

While the software is designed to make access to public court documents and eradicate paper from courtrooms, it’s had issues.

The debut of eCourts across the state led to a 41-page amended lawsuit listing software defects that caused people to spend days or weeks longer than necessary in jail, while others have been arrested multiple times on the same warrant— even after a judge has dismissed their charges.

Eastern Carolina District Attorney Seth Edwards says those five counties have been the guinea pigs for the software implementation.

Edwards is the district attorney for Beaufort, Hyde, Martin, Tyrrell, and Washington Counties, and he says a lot of the big kinks have been ironed out.

“I have been in regular contact with all the DA’s that are in these pilot counties. They have given us great advice on what to do and what not to do, and so, I am not anticipating that our courts are going to come to a halt,” says Edwards.

Edwards says they’ve made initial adjustments, saying they are not going fully digital on Monday. He says release orders and the transfer of inmates will not require electronic filing and signatures because Edwards says county jails and prisons are not using the eCourts software.

However, he is expecting a learning curve and longer court sessions.

“I think that most of the courts that I operate in will run mostly the same… the one thing that is going to be real tricky is our traffic courts or our high disposition courts where we have lots of folks coming in,” says Edwards.

While anyone will be able to access public records, he says security is still top of mind.

“A person from some other country could go online and it could be a real danger for identity theft. And so the court system I believe has taken great steps and safeguards to try to prevent that from happening,” says Edwards.

And after a four-month training stint, he and the court system are equipped.

“I’m ready for February fifth to get here because frankly, I am kinda tired of the training. I’m tired of all the practice courts. I’m ready to get in there and do it,” says Edwards.

WITN does have a scheduled interview to follow up with Edwards next week.