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Fairfax County Courthouse (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax County residents getting a divorce or pursuing a personal injury lawsuit can now get documents filed electronically instead of trekking over to the county courthouse.

The Fairfax County Circuit Court launched a new e-filing system on Monday (May 2), a notable step for a court that requires a paid subscription for access to case information and an in-person visit to obtain documents except in a select few cases.

To develop the service, which is currently available for existing divorce, personal injury, and contract cases, the court has partnered with the Texas-based company File & Serve Express (FSX), which says it manages more than 80 million documents and works in 1,300 courts across 20 states and D.C.

“The Pandemic has changed the practice of law, with more remote-work and ‘virtual practice’ in the legal industry,” Circuit Court Deputy Clerk Gerarda Culipher said in a news release. “Offering eFiling to our customers improves their access to justice, saves them costs and trips to the courthouse, thus making our court system easier to navigate in a digital age.”

The service isn’t free, as FSX charges a “modest” subscription fee as well as a search fee for subscribers who want to look at non-sealed documents for cases where they’re not a party.

According to the release, the court has been piloting the e-filing system with “several” law firms, and the feedback so far has indicated that it’s easy to use, Circuit Court Clerk John Frey said.

Chief Judge Penney Azcarate issued an order on April 26 permitting the clerk’s office to implement e-filing. The order indicates that electronic filing will ultimately be available for documents in all civil and criminal cases.

The court, which handles over 30,000 criminal and civil cases a year, is introducing e-filing in phases to ensure the system can handle the volume and complexity of cases, Frey said. The divorce, contract, and personal injury cases in this first phase make up “the bulk of litigation,” according to the court.

The court says other civil cases will be added this summer, but it’ll be “a while” before the service expands to criminal cases, Chief Deputy Clerk Suzanne Lubkeman told FFXnow.

“We are looking forward to offering this service to everyone, as Phase 1 successfully launches, and we move on to expanding to all types of cases,” Frey said.

While the e-filing service is primarily relevant to lawyers, FSX has public access accounts that provide “real-time access to publicly-available court documents” across the country, according to the registration form.

The Circuit Court Clerk’s Office did not immediately return a request for comment seeking to clarify whether that will allow access to electronically filed documents in Fairfax County cases.

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Morning Notes

Blossoms are out at Lewinsville Park in McLean (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

West Potomac Soccer Coaches Fired After Hazing — “In a message to West Potomac High School soccer families, Principal Tanganyika Millard said that after an April 21 practice, a ‘parent reported a student was injured after being singled out to run through a ‘gauntlet/tunnel.” Head coach Ahmad Sasso and two other coaches were fired after the incident.” [WTOP]

Dead Firefighter Escorted to Funeral Home — “#FCFRD members gathered to salute Captain Kimberly Schoppa during her dignified transfer. Units from her last assignment, Fire Station 27, West Springfield, carried her to the funeral home. Thank you to Fairfax County Police Department for the escort.” [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department/Facebook]

FCPS Alum Goes to Space — NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, a graduate of Robinson Secondary School, is part of a four-person crew that was scheduled to blast off to the International Space Station this morning (Wednesday) for SpaceX’s next mission. Lindgren was one of 18 astronauts selected by NASA in 2020 for its Artemis Team, an initiative to get humans back to the moon. [Florida Today]

Alpacas Make Fairfax County Courthouse Appearance — “By the time the alpacas arrive outside the Fairfax County Courthouse, it’s not really that surprising…The scene outside the Depp-Heard trial, entering its third week on Monday, has transformed the Fairfax County court complex from a place where Northern Virginia residents contest parking tickets to the stage for one of the biggest celebrity court cases in recent memory.” [The Washington Post]

TJ Tops National School Rankings — “Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County was ranked No. 1 in the nation, according to a new national ranking by U.S. News and World Report. This year’s list of best high schools evaluated more than 17,800 schools nationwide, including 322 in Virginia.” [Patch]

Vienna Students Write Cards for Ukrainian Refugees — “Students at Freedom Hill Elementary School in Vienna wrote stacks of cards to Ukrainian refugees for their principal to deliver on his spring break trip to Germany. Principal Nicholas Zapadka…decided to travel to Cologne in early April to help Ukrainian refugees who had arrived at a Red Cross refugee camp in Germany.” [Patch]

Mantua Home with Squatter Sold — “The home went off the market on April 15 for $805,000. It was built in 1964 and was last sold in 1997 for $319,000. The owner’s name was withheld by request on the Fairfax County auditor’s site. The new buyer’s name also was not listed.” [WUSA9]

It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 55 and low of 41. Sunrise at 6:17 am and sunset at 7:59 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Office buildings on Arlington Boulevard near Seven Corners (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 9 a.m.) County Board Chair Tests Positive for Covid — Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay announced last night (Monday) that he has tested positive for COVID-19. He reported experiencing “minor symptoms which are uncomfortable but manageable” and is currently working from home and quarantining. [Jeff McKay/Twitter]

Johnny Depp Fans Wait at Courthouse — “Fans who stood outside the main entrance of the Fairfax County Courthouse with the hopes of glimpsing actor Johnny Depp as he appeared for the first day of his defamation trial were disappointed. The ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ star skipped the crowds and entered the courthouse through another door.” [Patch]

Sen. Mark Warner Visits for Affordable Housing Talk — “Every community needs access to affordable housing. Glad to deliver funding to Fairfax County today to create up to 250 affordable housing units and talk to local leaders about how we can further support their initiatives at a federal level.” [Mark Warner/Twitter]

Trees Cut Down for Mount Vernon Bicycle Trail Project — “Construction to improve and link the Mount Vernon Bike Trail along the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway is in its early stages and to clear the way, a significant number of trees have been cut down along the road. According to the project team, there is no plan to replant additional trees when the project is completed, a county spokesperson said.” [The Connection]

Tysons Real Estate Leaders Explore Nats Sale — The Lerner family, which is behind the Tysons II development master plan, has hired an investment bank to explore potential investment partners for the Washington Nationals, The Washington Post reported. Mark Lerner, the baseball club’s managing principal owner, called the move “exploratory” with “no set timetable or expectation of a specific outcome.” [Patch]

County Unemployment Rate Declines — “Inflation may be eating away at their earnings, but a larger share of Fairfax County residents had jobs in February than a month before, according to new federal data…The county’s unemployment rate for the shortest month of the year stood at 2.5 percent, down from 2.9 percent a month before.” [Sun Gazette]

Local LGBTQ+ Advocates Worried About New Law — “Under a new law, Virginia school districts must notify parents whenever instructional materials include sexually explicit content and must provide parents alternative, non-explicit materials if requested…FCPS Pride said the bill ‘creates an adversarial relationship between teachers and parents or guardians.'” [The Washington Post]

Public Safety Workers Honored in Reston — “Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce officials on March 31 honored police, fire-and-rescue and Sheriff’s Office employees for their outstanding acts of public protection. More than 600 people attended the 44th annual Fairfax County Valor Awards, held at the Hyatt Regency Reston.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Herndon Plans Town-Wide Clean-Up — “The annual spring clean-up, an opportunity for residents to place large or bulky items curbside for pickup, takes place April 27-29. Pickup is on your trash day only.” [Town of Herndon]

It’s Tuesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 72 and low of 53. Sunrise at 6:37 am and sunset at 7:44 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

A Metro rider uses an updated fare gate at the Vienna Metro station (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Reminder: Old Metro Cards Stop Working Today — “SmarTrip cards purchased before 2012 are no longer compatible with new, faster, modern faregates already installed in many stations. In an announcement more than 10 months ago, Metro advised customers that the old cards would need to be replaced as stations are equipped with new faregates.” [WMATA]

County Circuit Court Ends Mask Requirement — Fairfax County Circuit Court Chief Judge Penny Azcarate announced yesterday (Monday) that masks will be optional to enter the Courthouse effective immediately in accordance with the county’s new policy. Rules in courtrooms “are at the discretion of the presiding judge.” [Circuit Court]

Masks Now Optional on School Buses — Fairfax County Public Schools confirmed that its shift to a mask-optional policy starting today (Tuesday) includes school buses and vans. FCPS will also stop contact tracing for individual COVID-19 cases, but a livestreaming option is still available to students who have to isolate. [FCPS]

No Injuries Reported in Wolf Trap House Fire — Firefighters responded to a house fire in the 1500 block of Snughill Court around 8:45 p.m. on Saturday (Feb. 26). Investigators determined that the fire was started by improperly discarded ashes from a fire pit. It displaced five people and caused approximately $187,500 in damages. [FCFRD]

Fear of Reston Golf Course Development Persists — “A recent proposal to establish a pilot program to remove invasive plant species around Reston National Golf Course is seen by some as a first step to garner support for redeveloping the land.” [Patch]

Historic McLean Estate to Be Conserved — “An 8-acre Civil War-era McLean property known as Elmwood recently became the 129th conservation easement for the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT)…Elmwood most recently was the home of the late television journalist Roger Mudd, whose family lived in the house for nearly half a century.” [Sun Gazette]

Reston Blogger Digs into History of Maryland Pizza Hut — Addison Del Mastro, who writes a Substack newsletter about urbanism and land use, noticed some unusual architectural features on a Pizza Hut in Landover. His investigation found that it started life in the 1970s as a franchise in a now-defunct chain called English’s Chick’n Steak House. [The Washington Post]

It’s Tuesday — Today will be mostly cloudy, then gradually become sunny, with a high near 58 and a low around 40. Sunrise will be at 6:39 a.m. and sunset at 6:01 p.m. [weather.gov]

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