One of the difficult, but necessary, aspects of successfully migrating courts to paper on demand is tracking down and making appropriate changes to anachronistic laws and rules that require, or are perceived to require, paper. I had assumed that the primary challenges were a) identifying them; and b) getting them appropriately changed. Never did it occur to me that another, perhaps even greater, hurdle would be direct opposition, masquerading as public service, from special interest groups with a vested interest in halting and rolling back the progress toward paper on demand.

Seems I was being overly naive. A group called Consumers for Paper Options is working hard, and having success, in getting laws passed that require the use of paper. In some instances, they have succeeded in requiring a return to the use of paper. The new laws, it seems, are necessary because paper on demand has proved to be so much more economic, efficient, secure, and convenient that paper simply can’t compete.

Who would take such a position? Hint: What did Deep Throat tell Woodward and Bernstein?

Follow the Money.

In an article last month in the Washington Post entitled “Group tries to slow federal government’s move away from paper,” Lisa Rein reports on the activities, strategies, successes and underlying sponsors of a group called Consumers for Paper Options. The group purports to support seniors and others it claims are being “disenfranchised” by the move to paper on demand. Its modest suggestion is that everyone should get everything in paper, unless they specifically request otherwise.

And who ARE these public-spirited folks? Well, they don’t exactly tell you on their website. Ms. Rein, however, discovered after some digging, that the backers of CPO are the paper manufacturers and distributors.

It seems that the efficiencies and cost savings accruing to businesses and taxpayers are putting a serious dent in the sales of paper. For example, Rein reports that

“At [The] Treasury [Department], which last year suspended most paper mailings for all but the very aged and those with “mental impairments,” officials estimate the shift will save $1 billion over 10 years. The move by the Social Security Administration in 2011 to stop mailing paper earnings statements to 150 million Americans is saving $72 million a year.”

Meanwhile, Reins reports that the demand for paper products dropped an average of five percent each year for the past five years, according to industry analysts. I’m guessing that the demand for paper plates and cups, playing cards and toilet paper has remained pretty steady. So I’m leaping to the conclusion that a good chunk of that five percent is document-related.

Think the business case for something like e-Filing could survive specious argument? Well, consider this example (non-court related; but illustrative, I think):

” Late last year, Consumers for Paper Options scored another victory when Rep. Michael H. Michaud (D-Maine), working with the American Forest and Paper Association, used his influence to have language removed from a pharmaceutical bill that would have ended the practice of printing prescription information and inserting it into drug packages, instead requiring that it be posted online. The Food and Drug Administration has been pressing for the change, which the agency says would save money and ensure the information is up to date.”

Remember that, every time you recycle the half a bag of paper that comes with your prescription. And PLEASE don’t complain about the high cost of drugs.

Seriously, I’m betting that these folks don’t advertise their presence and involvement in legislative and rule making affairs. Call me paranoid: I AM paranoid. As courts and the justice system move more and more to paper on demand models, some of those savings are going to be coming out of the pockets of the public-spirited backers of CPO. My Business Law professor told us, at the outset of his course, that people really only get terribly interested over either sex or money. And of the two, money is infinitely more interesting.

So, when proposing those changes, try not to get blindsided. Because it’s a good bet that CPO is interested.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/group-tries-to-slow-federal-governments-move-away-from-paper-to-the-web/2014/02/16/42fd9aa6-8de8-11e3-833c-33098f9e5267_story.html?hpid=z1

[1] http://www.paperoptions.org/index.php

[1] Reins article.

[1] Reins article

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