By April 1 all attorneys and all clerks will be required to use Florida’s e-filing portal for the filing of civil trial cases.
Currently, there are more than 20,100 registered users and an average of almost 43,000 documents per month being filed electronically in the trial courts. April 1 should bring about a spike in both those numbers as attorneys adapt to the electronic world and clerks begin to process electronic filings as quickly as possible. April 1 will be upon us before we know it.
To prepare for the deadline, there have been a number of questions already asked that may be helpful as attorneys gear up.
Q: What type of computer should I use?
A: If you are able to send and receive email with attached documents, and use a fairly new computer — the portal supports Internet Explorer 8 or higher — you probably already know how to navigate your computer to attach a text or PDF document as you file on the Florida Courts E-Filing Portal. Use a personal computer when filing as the portal does not currently accept documents sent from an iPad or an Android device.
Q: How do I obtain a user name and password for using the Florida Courts E-Filing Portal?
A: Navigate the Internet to www.myflcourtaccess.com. Click on the underlined words, “Register Now,” and follow the prompts. You will receive an email confirming that you have registered, then another email with a link that you must click on. This link will take you to a site where you can activate your account. You must use the same name as you use with The Florida Bar — the portal validates your registration name with your Florida Bar information.
Q: I already registered and am getting ready to e-file, but I see a message that says my account is inactive and I should contact “support.” What should I do?
A: It may have been a while since you registered. Passwords expire every 90 days and will need to be changed. You will be unable to use the same or previous passwords. Contact email@example.com or call 850-577-4609 to reset your account.
Q: How do I send a document through the portal?
A: Create case documents on your computer as you normally would. The Florida Courts E-Filing Portal will accept filings in Microsoft Word, or PDF formats. Then login to www.myflcourtaccess.com. Complete the required information and follow the steps to attach your document(s) (it’s like attaching a document to an email), then pay, if required, and submit the filing.
Q: I’m having issues filing a large document. Why won’t my document transmit properly?
A: Documents are limited to 25 megabytes in size per submission.
Q: What should my scanner settings be for my documents?
A: Black and White 600x800 DPI-Flat image.
Q: Why doesn’t the document type I need appear in the drop-down menu?
A: If you do not see the proper document type in the drop-down list provided, contact the clerk’s office in the county where you wish to file and ask their advice. You may also want to ask that the document code be added to the drop-down list.
Q: How do I know my document was received?
A: You will receive an automated filing confirmation from the clerk’s office and acceptance from the clerk. Watch for information on the “My Filings” site on the portal when you logon. Once the filing is accepted into the local clerk’s system, this becomes the official court record just like the current paper process. The portal provides access to your filings via the My Filings page. As a precaution, make sure you have sent the filing to the correct county to make sure it is timely filed.
Q: How do I find out more about how to file a document through the portal?
A: There is an e-filer manual found in the Filer Documentation link on the portal. Once logged in, scroll to the bottom of the screen. More information can also be found in Supreme Court orders on e-filing and the portal on the Supreme Court’s website, www.flcourts.org/gen_public/technology/e-filinginfostatus.shtml. The most recent copy of SC 11-399, amended October 18, 2012, is found linked there.
Q: What if my questions are not answered in the manual?
A: Attorneys and legal assistants can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (850) 577-4609.
Q: I have a law office in which many attorneys will be filing documents. Is there a better way to manage that work?
A: There is a Law Firm Administrator function that can be set up for law offices. Contact email@example.com or call 850-577-4609 for assistance.
Q: How do I pay for filing a document?
A: You will only be charged when submitting documents that initiate a case. Note, there is a charge when using a credit/debit card and a flat $3 charge for using an ACH transfer. The portal accepts MasterCard, Discover, and American Express.
Q: What is the difference between e-filing and e-service, to the extent that even though you e-file, in most counties, you also then have to e-serve opposing counsel?
A: Currently, the Florida Courts E-Filing Portal does not perform e-service, but it is expected to do so later this year. Thus, an attorney must adhere to the rules to serve each other. The Florida Bar website has a page devoted to what lawyers need to know about e-filing and e-service. It can be found by mousing over the Member Services link on the Bar’s homepage (www.floridabar.org) and then clicking on LOMAS. Scroll down to: “HOT NEWS!! What Florida Lawyers need to know about e-filing and e-service.” Major updates to portal functionality will be noticed on the Myflcourtaccess.com website.
Q: I cannot figure out how to use the portal. Can I just send my document to the clerk by email?
A: Civil court documents must be e-filed through the Florida Courts E-Filing Portal by April 1, 2013. The clerk is not authorized to accept court documents by email. A document must be sent through the portal. Sending a document by email to firstname.lastname@example.org does not get it filed or edited. Many clerks have a standard response directing attorneys on how to best file their pleading in that county. Even the statewide help desk supporting portal users is getting emailed documents accompanied by a note, such as, “Please file my document,” or, better yet, several attorneys have emailed documents with the directive: “Please correct the filing I just sent by replacing it with this document.” The portal help desk personnel cannot file for an attorney, much less alter a document meant for the court. If you need assistance, contact the clerk in the county where you wish to file, or contact portal assistance at email@example.com or (850) 577-4609.
This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to questions that attorneys are bound to have. Volume through the portal will not be an issue; it is a pass-through site for the most part. As with any new way of doing business, it will take time and patience to learn and get used to the new way of filing case documents.
Court procedural rules affected by e-filing, e-service, and related functions were discussed in two Supreme Court opinions issued on October 18, 2012, in case no. SC11-399 and case no. SC10-2101. The latter deals with Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516 on electronic service and its related rules, and the former deals with Rule of Judicial Administration 2.525 on e-filing and its related rules.
(This report was compiled by the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers and edited by the Bar News.)