About 25 cases were filed electronically in the first few days that Florida’s electronic filing system was available in selected counties, and several more counties have been approved to join the system.
The Florida Courts E-Filing Authority met January 11 to review the legislatively mandated e-filing system that opened the previous week. The authority is in charge of the Internet portal that is the gateway to the system, which will eventually allow Florida lawyers to file paperwork in any state court when they have access to a computer and the Internet.
The authority also approved a request from the Florida Courts Technology Commission to beef up the information collected on the initial filings.
Melvin Cox of the Florida Association of Court Clerks, who is overseeing the computer operations for e-filing, told the authority that the first set of court clerks working with the e-filing system has selected volunteer attorneys and is working with them on the initial filings.
“Before we do something live, we want to make sure we’ve tested it,” Cox said. “We’re going to ask the clerks initially to identify what we call pilot attorneys. These are attorneys who are willing to work with us and understand how e-filing works.”
Those test filings work out any bugs, and then the system can be opened to more attorneys, he said.
And there is interest. More than 500 attorneys throughout the state have registered with the e-filing system, although most still cannot file.
Plus, a second batch of counties has asked to begin e-filing through the portal. The board approved adding those counties in the coming weeks. They are Broward, Orange, Marion, Collier, Franklin, Jackson, and Leon counties. They will join Lake, Columbia, Duval, Gulf, Holmes, Lee, Miami-Dade, Putnam, and Walton counties, the initial counties selected for e-filing.
Currently, five of 10 trial court divisions are approved for e-filing, although not all participating counties are accepting filings in all five divisions. Those divisions are dependency, circuit and county civil, probate, and family.
Cox said a page has been added to the portal website, , that shows which counties are accepting e-filing and in which divisions they are accepting cases.
The authority asked that counties come to the authority when they are ready for e-filing, rather than adopting a set schedule. That, members said, would limit delays in getting counties added to the site.
The board approved expanding information collected when a case is e-filed, complying with a request from the FCTC, which noted that procedural rules require certain data to be captured when a case is filed, either by paper or electronically. Cox noted some of the information is voluntary, but other data is needed, including eight necessary additional items the FCTC sought on civil filings.
That includes such things as the full names of parties, addresses, demands for jury trials, class action requests, and the like. Six voluntary questions include gender and racial information. The board agreed to expand the system to include the necessary information, but tabled the optional data, pending further discussion.
On other matters, the board:
• Discussed necessary education to help lawyers and their staffs master the e-filing system. That includes online tutorials to help users. The board saw a demonstration of how registration and case filing works.
• Viewed a demonstration on what’s called the Access to Justice, or A2J for short, that could be added to the portal later. That project will help pro se litigants. Cox said it asks pro se parties a series of questions and then generates necessary forms from the answers they give.
• Discussed how some counties, such as Manatee, that previously established e-filing projects, will be incorporated into the portal.
The board set its next meeting for Tallahassee on February 15.