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October 15, 2012
E-filing doesn’t mean emailing

Some lawyers are emailing their filings instead of using the portal

Apparently in some counties, “e-filing” has been mistaken to mean “file by email.”

The following note was sent to a clerk’s office by email, according to the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers. It is very polite. It is simply, however, not an effective way in getting a document filed with the clerk.

“Good morning,

“You will find attached the proposed order and motion to continue a non-jury trial in the above-referenced matter. Please advise concerning the status of the order at your earliest convenience. Thank you.”

The Supreme Court rules requiring attorneys to e-file by a certain date have struck fear in the hearts of some lawyers. Those who believe that they have met the required mandate to e-file if the document was sent by email to the clerk’s office are on the right track, just using the wrong method to send the pleading.

Possibly not everyone is aware that Florida is one of the few states in the nation that has a portal to accept electronic documents. Mandated by the Legislature in 2009, the Florida Courts E-Filing portal, found at www.myflcourtaccess.com, has been under construction since that time. Today, 52 counties can accept civil filings through the portal and several are beginning to accept criminal filings.

“A few weeks ago we had deputy clerks tearing up their office, looking for pleadings that a local attorney said he had e-filed,” said Marynelle Hardee, counsel to the Alachua County Clerk’s Office. “The documents were nowhere to be found in our portal queues, or anywhere else in the office for that matter. After calling the attorney’s office back, the staff realized the attorney had sent the documents by email.”

Due to such occurrences, Hardee said the office developed a standard answer to filings arriving via email:

“Please be advised that the the Florida Supreme Court has not authorized clerks of court to accept documents for electronic filing via e-mail. Documents may only be electronically filed via the state e-filing portal, www.myflcourtaccess.com. Please either resubmit your documents through the portal, or send them to us by fax or regular mail."

“We are trying to educate everyone that there is a portal that they are to use in order to send us their documents,” Hardee said.

Many local bars have held training classes for their members on the Florida Courts E-Filing portal. There is also a video on the Florida Courts E-Filing Authority website. The authority has a number of educational documents on the home page, as well as the video. The authority is located at .

But what is different about sending a filing through the portal, rather than by email?

Once on the portal, you link a file and, after a few other steps, hit “send.” But there are some differences. First, the portal links to the individual clerk’s office case maintenance system and integrates the filing into the workflow queue. The portal time stamps the document; the clerk inspects it, accepts it, and the system assigns a case number. The filer is then notified that the filing has been accepted and docketed. One other important aspect — the filer can pay through the portal.

Merrily Longacre, the Brevard clerk’s attorney, said her office is seeing emailed filings, as well.

“Even practitioners are confusing the e-service rules wherein email is used with e-filing, combining the two and believing that sending a document through email is e-filing,” said Longacre, adding it would not be an unlikely scenario that an attorney misses a statute of limitations thinking they were e-filing when they were emailing.

So, how do you keep current on all that is happening in this new e-filing arena?

While Florida Rules of Judicial Administration do not specifically reference the portal and its url, it may soon, as e-filing discussions continue and the portal, , is up and running. The main court order pertaining to e-filing, SC11-399, now has a page of its own on the Supreme Court’s website and contains the deadlines that everyone should be watching. Most recently, July 1, the amended order SC 11-399 mandates that all attorneys will file civil cases electronically, meaning through the portal, by April 1, 2013. Documents in all criminal cases will have to be filed electronically by October 1, 2013.

The Supreme Court had also put together other documentation related to the court’s technology on the Supreme Court’s Technology page, www.flcourts.org/gen_public/technology/e-filinginfostatus.shtml. The Florida Bar has a portion of its home page linking to a full page on e-service and e-filing to assist lawyers. And the Florida Courts E-Filing Authority is meeting monthly, posting agendas and information on their homepage, www.flclerks.com/eFiling_authority.html.

(Editor’s Note: The information in this story was compiled by the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers, which staffs the Florida Court’s E-Filing Authority, and was edited by the News.)

[Revised: 09-30-2014]