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February 1, 2012
Storms demands uniformity in statewide court e-filing

By Jan Pudlow
Senior Editor

“I don’t beat my rugs. I use a vacuum.

“I don’t drag my clothes out to a stream and beat them on a rock. I use a washing machine.

Sen. Ronda Storms “We have to maximize the technology available to us,” Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Brandon, told those gathered January 12 at the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations.

Storms, an attorney and teacher, tossed out those colorful words in frustration, when she brought up the subject of e-filing.

Just the day before, she said, clerks’ employees visited her office with complaints that e-filing is not going smoothly, and all 67 counties should get on the same page with “best practices.”

Storms gave the example of the burden of redacting sensitive information from court files, such as Social Security numbers. Storms said whoever files a document should fill out a cover sheet and check off that sensitive information has been redacted, so the clerks only have to double-check the redaction has been accomplished.

“These people are frustrated in their inability to communicate and to have statewide standards, even with other clerks in their own group,” Storms said.

Fred Baggett, general counsel of the Florida Association of Court Clerks, jumped up to defend the progress made and the $3 million spent over the past two years to build the e-filing system for court documents.

“Redaction has been a big issue, no question about that,” Baggett acknowledged, but he said the kinks have been worked out.

“It’s a matter of knowing what the standard is for the clerks to follow, and that is what we have worked through,” Baggett said.

All courts will be connected to civil e-filing by July, Baggett said, and for criminal files, by December 31.

State Courts Administrator Lisa Goodner assured Storms that the Florida Court Technology Commission has worked collaboratively with the clerks for a “statewide e-portal, so we have one-stop e-filing,” and the Supreme Court has adopted filing standards for statewide consistency.

But Storms remained unconvinced.

“God bless you, Lisa, but you’re going to tell me that we are working hard on it. Still, the bottom line is that 67 counties don’t have uniformity. We still don’t have efficiency. We study it to death, and you don’t have the power to make those constitutional officers do anything.”

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, and chair of the subcommittee, said: “Senator, with your encouragement, we can put something in proviso language that would encourage them to do it and get it done. So this way, they can’t come back next year and the year after and say they’re working on this. Would that be good?”

Storms responded: “That would be fabulous!”

[Revised: 10-03-2014]