Pennsylvania Record

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Philadelphia court system website back online after six-week shutdown

State Court

By Nicholas Malfitano | Jul 3, 2019


First Judicial District

PHILADELPHIA – After six weeks of controversy and confusion, the virus-related shutdown of the Philadelphia court system’s website is over and the remaining features of electronic filing and docket searching have been restored.

The First Judicial District (FJD) released a statement Monday morning, explaining the Civil and Orphans’ Court electronic filing (e-file) and docket search features were now back online.

“Effective today, Monday, July 1, 2019, the FJD’s Civil and Orphans’ Court electronic filing (e-file) and docket searches have been restored. Please be aware that due to an expected surge in user access, intermittent connectivity issues may arise,” the statement read.

“Moving forward, e-file will only be compatible with the following web browsers: Microsoft 10 Edge, Safari, and Firefox. We appreciate your patience as our IT Dept. continues their work to restore criminal case electronic filing and the ability to purchase subpoenas electronically. Please note that subpoenas may still be purchased in Room 296 of City Hall.”

The website had been disabled since May 21, when the First Judicial District announced that a “limited” number of its computers had been infected with a virus and it shut down the network as a precautionary measure. The court said the virus was “not a data breach, nor a ransomware attack.”

The Philadelphia court system released no other information on the virus itself, with the institution saying disclosure would jeopardize efforts to repair the computer network. While it was revealed that a cybersecurity firm had been retained by the City in the effort to get the network back up and running and for security reasons, no other information on the virus was forthcoming.

The City retained an Erdenheim-based company named SoluStaff to remediate the court system website and paid it approximately $17,000 to do so, along with a supplemental payment of $60,000 to bolster and improve the court’s technological infrastructure.

Philadelphia City Councilman Brian O’Neill recently requested formal hearings to determine if Philadelphia and its technology systems are able to withstand the types of malware/ransomware attacks and functionality issues that other cities and governments like Baltimore and Atlanta have experienced in the recent past.

The financial cost to recover from the cyber-attack in Baltimore stood at $18 million, and Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation and Technology was earmarked for an increase in funding of $10 million in Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposed budget for next year.

During the shutdown, all courts in Philadelphia remain opened, attorneys filed their documents by hand and submitted them in person at City Hall (as was customary prior to the electronic filing and docketing network being made available in 2008) and citizens who received notices to appear for jury duty continued to appear.

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nick.malfitano@therecordinc.com

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