Electronic service problems in court documents for lawyers who use AOL email should be fixed, according to officials who work with the Internet portal that handles electronic filing for the Florida courts system.
Staff for the Florida Courts E-Filing Authority, which oversees the portal, began getting complaints last fall from some lawyers who were not receiving documents that should have been automatically served when they were filed by other parties in their cases.
An analysis of the complaints showed that most were from lawyers who used AOL for email addresses.
“It’s kind of curious. We discovered that they had put us on a blacklist after we received some calls from lawyers who used AOL as a service provider,” said Carolyn Weber, e-filing portal senior analyst.
“A blacklist is where they perceive us to be spamming, sending out multiple emails, sort of like an automated email generator. They saw all of the multiple emails that were coming from our email provider and thought it was spam.
“It was explained to them what we were doing and what the process was and they said they would remove us.”
The problem was apparently that the portal e-service system specified in the emails that no reply was possible, which made the AOL computers think it was spam, since uninvited bulk email senders frequently also do not allow replies.
For a while problems were fixed, but since that initial contact, the problems have periodically recurred.
A check showed that AOL was again blocking service emails from the portal.
After further discussion, Weber thinks the difficulty is permanently fixed — at least no complaints have come in recently.
She cautioned lawyers to be vigilant that their emails for e-service are going through. The system will alert a filer when a served document has been rejected by an email address on the service list for a case.
The alert requires the filer to use an alternative form of service for the document, although Weber said some lawyers have been slow to do that.
A portal software upgrade, scheduled to go into effect March 28 will require filers to check a box next to addresses in an e-service file where emails have been rejected before those documents are filed and sent to other parties, as a further prod for lawyers to check and update email addresses in a cases e-service list.
For lawyers using AOL or another service who suspect their service may be blocking service emails, Weber suggested setting up a free email account through Yahoo, Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, or other services, and then adding it to the e-service list in a case.
If a served document comes to the new account but not to the existing account, the lawyer will know the problem lies with his or her email service provider and not the portal.
Weber also cautioned lawyers that they must use only letters or numbers in their email addresses filed with the portal.
Using symbols or characters such as a heart shape — known as ASCII characters — will prevent delivery of documents.