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  • News: EOIR To Create A Voluntary Pilot Program To Test An Electronic Filing System With OCAHO

    Federal Register, Volume 79 Issue 104 (Friday, May 30, 2014)
    [Federal Register Volume 79, Number 104 (Friday, May 30, 2014)]
    [Notices]
    [Pages 31143-31144]
    From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
    [FR Doc No: 2014-12183]
    
    
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    
    DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
    
    Executive Office for Immigration Review
    
    [Docket No. EOIR 182]
    
    
    Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer Electronic 
    Filing Pilot Program
    
    AGENCY: Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer, Executive 
    Office for Immigration Review, Department of Justice.
    
    ACTION: Public notice.
    
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    
    SUMMARY: The Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer 
    (OCAHO), Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), is creating a 
    voluntary pilot program to test an electronic filing system in certain 
    cases filed with OCAHO under 8 U.S.C. 1324a and 1324b. This notice 
    describes the procedures for participation in the pilot program.
    
    DATES: The pilot program will be in effect from May 30, 2014 until 
    November 26, 2014. Parties who enroll in the pilot program with respect 
    to a particular case within these dates will be permitted to continue 
    utilizing electronic filing throughout the pendency of that case.
    
    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeff Rosenblum, General Counsel, 
    Executive Office for Immigration Review, 5107 Leesburg Pike, Suite 
    2600, Falls Church, Virginia 20530, telephone (703) 305-0470 (not a 
    toll-free call).
    
    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:
    
    I. Background
    
        The Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO), 
    Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), Department of Justice 
    (Department), is establishing a pilot program that would allow parties 
    in cases before OCAHO's Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and Chief 
    Administrative Hearing Officer (CAHO) to file case-related documents by 
    email. Currently, parties before OCAHO submit paper filings to OCAHO, 
    and simultaneously serve a physical copy of each document on other 
    parties to the case. Under this pilot program, both filing with OCAHO 
    and service on other parties could be accomplished by email in eligible 
    cases. OCAHO is undertaking this initiative to attempt to make 
    submission of case documents more convenient for parties and to reduce 
    the time and expense presently incurred with paper filings.
        On April 1, 2013, EOIR published a final rule in the Federal 
    Register establishing a mandatory electronic registry (eRegistry) for 
    all attorneys and accredited representatives who practice before EOIR's 
    immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals (Board). See 78 
    FR 19400. eRegistry is part of a long-term agency plan to create an 
    electronic case access and filing system for the immigration courts and 
    the Board, pursuant to the Government Paperwork Elimination Act (GPEA), 
    Public Law 105-277, 112 Stat. 2681-750 (1998).
        OCAHO is not currently participating in eRegistry, for a number of 
    reasons. First, OCAHO's cases are filed and tracked in different 
    databases than and differ in both substance and procedure from those 
    handled by the immigration courts and the Board. Second, while many 
    attorneys and accredited representatives appear repeatedly before the 
    immigration courts and the Board in different cases, OCAHO does not 
    encounter as many repeat representatives in its cases. Additionally, 
    many parties in OCAHO cases appear pro se or are represented by non-
    attorneys (for example, business managers or human resources 
    specialists) for only a single case. Therefore, OCAHO does not believe 
    that a formal registry is necessary or useful for its cases at this 
    time.
        However, in order to align OCAHO procedures with the rest of the 
    agency as it moves toward a system for electronic filing in cases 
    before the immigration courts and the Board, OCAHO is instituting this 
    temporary, limited, and voluntary electronic filing pilot program. 
    Implementation of this pilot program on a small scale will allow OCAHO 
    to test and evaluate operating an electronic filing system. At the 
    conclusion of the pilot program, OCAHO will assess its experience and 
    determine the best course of action for the development of a more 
    comprehensive and permanent electronic filing system. OCAHO also 
    welcomes input from the public in this regard.
        This notice describes the basic procedures for applying for and 
    participating in the pilot program. As detailed herein, OCAHO also 
    intends to send more detailed instructions for participation directly 
    to the parties in eligible cases.
    
    II. Eligibility to Participate
    
        An opportunity to participate in the pilot program will be offered 
    in all OCAHO cases filed within 180 days of the effective date of this 
    notice. Enrollment in the pilot program will be limited to those cases 
    in which both parties: (1) Elect to participate and (2) certify that 
    they and/or their
    
    [[Page 31144]]
    
    representative(s) have access to the technology necessary to comply 
    with the procedures for electronic filing and that access to the 
    parties' email will be provided only to authorized individuals. This 
    technology includes access to a scanner that can create documents in 
    portable document format (PDF), up-to-date software for creating and 
    reading PDF documents, and an email account that can send and receive 
    email attachments up to ten (10) megabytes in size. While all new OCAHO 
    cases will be eligible for the pilot, OCAHO may limit the total number 
    of cases that will be accepted into the pilot program once it 
    commences, as circumstances require.
    
    III. Procedures for Participation
    
        OCAHO cases commence with the filing of a complaint, by Immigration 
    and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in cases brought under 8 U.S.C. 1324a and 
    8 U.S.C. 1324c, or by the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-
    Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), or the charging or injured 
    party in cases brought under 8 U.S.C. 1324b. OCAHO subsequently issues 
    a Notice of Case Assignment to both parties, assigning the case to an 
    OCAHO ALJ and giving the respondent the opportunity to file an answer. 
    After the respondent files an answer, the ALJ issues an order for 
    prehearing statements, setting a schedule for discovery and dispositive 
    motions. Under this pilot program, once OCAHO receives the respondent's 
    answer, OCAHO will invite parties to participate in the pilot by 
    mailing to both parties instructions outlining the procedures for the 
    pilot and the certification form the parties must complete and sign in 
    order to participate in the pilot program.
        In order to enroll in the pilot, each party must submit the signed 
    certification form in hard copy to OCAHO and serve a copy of the 
    certification on the opposing party. The certification must: Identify 
    the email address the party will use for all case-related 
    communications and submissions; certify that only authorized 
    individuals will have access to that email address; attest that the 
    party has access to the necessary technology; and consent to abide by 
    the specific procedures for filing and service outlined in the e-filing 
    instructions that will be sent to each party. If both parties to a case 
    agree to participate in the pilot and meet the certification 
    requirements, they will be notified by mail and email that their case 
    has been accepted into the pilot program. Thereafter, all case 
    documents shall be filed with OCAHO and served on the opposing party in 
    the case by email. All documents submitted under this pilot that 
    require a signature under 28 CFR 68.7, including motions, briefs, and 
    other pleadings, must include a handwritten, scanned signature. All 
    files submitted by email must be in PDF.
        For cases enrolled in the pilot program, all decisions and orders 
    issued by the ALJ (or, in cases of administrative review, the CAHO) 
    will be signed, scanned, and emailed to both parties in the case.
        The pilot will be entirely voluntary. A case will not be accepted 
    into the pilot unless both parties consent in writing to participate. 
    Once accepted, the parties will be responsible for all activity and 
    communications from their designated email account. Parties who elect 
    not to participate in the pilot will continue to file and receive case 
    documents as set forth in 28 CFR part 68.
    
    IV. Additional Information
    
        The pilot program will be effective for 180 days after the date of 
    this notice. Parties who properly enroll in the pilot program during 
    this 180-day period will be allowed to continue filing by email 
    throughout the duration of their case before OCAHO, even if the case 
    remains pending beyond the 180-day pilot period. OCAHO will continue to 
    accept paper submissions in accordance with the procedures at 28 CFR 
    part 68 in all cases not enrolled in the pilot program.
        Parties and their representatives will be responsible for all 
    activity and communications with OCAHO conducted from the party's or 
    representative's designated email account. Parties and their 
    representatives must take necessary steps to ensure that only 
    authorized individuals have access to the party's or representative's 
    designated email account and all official case documents sent and 
    received through that email account, as those documents may contain 
    sensitive or protected privacy information.
    
        Dated: May 15, 2014.
    Juan P. Osuna,
    Director.
    [FR Doc. 2014-12183 Filed 5-29-14; 8:45 am]
    BILLING CODE 4410-30-P
    
    
    
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