The Second District Court of Appeal is looking to temporarily stop using the Florida court system’s statewide e-filing portal for case filings and instead use the eDCA system used by the state’s four other district courts of appeal. However, parties could still use the portal system for paying filing fees.
The issue was discussed at the February 27 meeting of the Florida Courts E-Filing Authority. The Second DCA had originally sent the authority a letter, dated February 21, asking to make the change on March 1.
Authority board members approved a motion to discuss and work cooperatively with the Second DCA but noted the March 1 date was unrealistic. Lynn Hoshihara, the board’s legal advisor, said the change might require an administrative order from the chief justice, had implications for the interlocal agreement that governs the authority and portal, and might require review by the Florida Courts Technology Commission, which oversees technology matters for the Supreme Court. It would also require notifying lawyer users of the portal and county clerks of court who handle appeals to the Second DCA.
Second DCA Clerk Mary Beth Kuenzel said the court will return to the portal filing when the other DCAs join the system, now expected to be sometime next year.
“In the interim period [while details are worked out], I’m sure we can accommodate filings that come through the portal as well as through eDCA so there will be no instance where there is a problem of rejected filings,” Kuenzel said. “We will always work to make sure that everyone gets what they need.”
She said the request to switch back to the eDCA system came for several reasons. One is the Second DCA has a large case volume and at the moment there is no ability for the court to “batch” file orders, that is do several at a time. The court files 70 to 200 orders per day and doing them individually, as well as sending out the court’s decisions every Wednesday and Friday, is time-consuming.
Secondly, while the portal handles electronic service for the trial courts, there is no system for the DCAs yet.
“We are serving by the U.S. Mail. . . . The rest of the world is serving electronically,” Kuenzel said. “Frankly, for the people who practice in our court and appear in our court, that’s a major downside.”
Finally, parties cannot access their case records online, as they can with the eDCA system.
Kuenzel said the court did want to retain the ability for parties to pay their filing fees through the portal and, if that could be accomplished, that feature could be used by the other four DCAs in the interim before they all begin using the portal.
E-filing Authority Chair Tim Smith said the authority had no particular objection to the request, but added, ”We just want to make sure whatever path we go down, we do this collaboratively . . . so we don’t cause someone heartache or distress. We want to do it in the right way.”
The authority board voted to direct its staff to work with the Second DCA on the changeover.
After the meeting, Kuenzel said, filers will have an option to use eDCA beginning on March 1, but the portal also will remain available.
“We are implementing the program on March 1. There will be an interim period where you can choose to file through either [portal or eDCA],” she said. “We will have the filing option through eDCA, but we will not have mandatory filing through eDCA until we work though the issues with the portal authority and get approval from the Florida Supreme Court.”