Virus leads to takedown of city's court system website and e-filing

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Philadelphia’s court system website and e-filing have been shut down since May 21 to safeguard against a virus found on a limited number of computers.

Law firms are going old-school, using couriers and paper to file lawsuits and other court documents, the Legal Intelligencer reports.

The website takedown has made civil docket searches unavailable and shut down criminal docket searches on public computer terminals, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Employee emails also were unavailable. There is no timetable for restoration of the systems, a court spokesperson told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

A press release said the website was shut down “to fully review and clean the operating systems,” according to prior stories by the Legal Intelligencer and the Philadelphia Inquirer. A spokesperson said there was no data breach and no ransomware attack.

The Philadelphia Unemployment Project, a nonprofit group, filed an emergency motion Monday that asks the courts to postpone mortgage foreclosure and tax sales because of the ongoing shutdown. The motion claims that the shutdown leaves homeowners “vulnerable to mistakes, denies them basic due process protections, and creates fundamental unfairness by depriving litigants of full access to the courts.”

The courts are “doing a pretty good job managing this situation,” said Albert Bixler, member-in-charge for Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott’s Philadelphia office.

“We’ve been doing things the old-fashioned way, filing in paper form, with checks attached,” Bixler told the Legal Intelligencer. “For our people, it didn’t require learning anything new. It just required remembering how to do it the old way.”

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