RALEIGH (N.C.) (AP). A federal lawsuit filed in North Carolina on Tuesday alleges that an electronic court records system implemented this year in four counties caused people to be arrested more than once for the same warrant, and delayed the release of other prisoners.
Two North Carolina residents arrested in the first half of this year have filed a lawsuit against their county sheriffs, and the Texas technology company that designed the electronic filing system. They claim their arrest was unlawful.
Timia Champlin from Wake County, and Paulino Castillos from Lee County filed a complaint in U.S. District Court on Tuesday asking for a federal court to prohibit their local sheriffs to continue using the system. They claim that the system violates the constitution by denying liberty to citizens.
The proposed class action lawsuit suggests that there may be hundreds of other residents in the state who are affected.
In the complaint, Chaplin and Castellanos stated that 'this class action seeks remedy for past harms as eCourts will soon be implemented across North Carolina's remaining counties'.
Tyler Technologies was awarded a $100,000,000 contract by the Administrative Office of the Courts in 2019 to develop a suite of software applications called eCourts. This follows years of discussion about how the state judiciary could modernize its archaic filing system.
The system was launched on February 13 in four counties -- Wake Lee Johnston Harnett -- with the intention of expanding to all 100 counties before 2025. Several attorneys and legislators have criticised its rocky launch, pointing out numerous glitches as well as system lags and delays.
Chaplin claims that the system malfunctions violated constitutional rights to freedom from illegal search, seizure, and detention. She was arrested twice for not appearing in court on the same warrant.
Chaplin claimed that although a judge dismissed the case in March when she attended a rescheduled hearing, her arrest warrant remained unresolved for almost a month as its'resolved status' had not been shared across eCourts apps.
Castellanos claims that his release from prison was delayed by 14 days because of problems with digitizing his case files.
In their lawsuit, they name Wake County Sheriff Willie Rowe as well as Lee County Sheriff Brian Estes. On Tuesday, they could not be reached for comment.
Graham Wilson, a spokesperson for the North Carolina Judicial Branch said that the administrative office encouraged residents, lawyers and court officials since the launch of the new system to report any problems like those in the complaint.
Wilson stated that he had investigated every report he received. He said, "We have not substantiated any allegations of wrongful arrests or incarceration caused by the eCourts System."
Tyler Technologies has declined to comment about the lawsuit.
Hannah Schoenbaum works as a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America, a nonprofit program of national service that places journalists into local newsrooms in order to cover undercovered issues.