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September 15, 2013
Court denies blanket request to slow implementation of criminal e-filings

A blanket request by state attorneys for delaying the October 1 deadline for mandatory electronic filing of criminal court cases has been rejected by Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston, but Polston said the court remains ready to consider individual applications.

The Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association (FPAA) on August 19 requested the delay, saying not enough clerks were ready for the state attorneys to meet the October 1 deadline set by the court last year. They asked that each state attorney be excused from the deadline until 90 days after every clerk in his or her circuit was ready to accept electronic filings through the statewide e-filing Internet portal.

Polston, in a September 3 letter, rejected the request without prejudice and said “individual state attorneys who may wish to file individual requests for extension for their offices” can provide the court with justifications.

Polston’s letter came a day before the Florida Courts E-Filing Authority Board met to compile a statewide list of clerks, courts, state attorneys, and public defender offices ready to begin electronic filing of criminal cases by the October 1 deadline. He asked the prosecutors to participate in that effort. (See story here.)

The authority board already had said it expected several counties to miss the deadline. Polston previously had said the court was ready to grant extensions as long as it was satisfied diligent efforts were being made to accomplish electronic filing of criminal cases.

“I understand the need to transition to e-filing of criminal cases in a manner that causes the least amount of disruption in the offices of the clerks, the courts, and attorneys filing criminal cases and recognize a lack of readiness in any one of these offices will require a delayed implementation date,” Polston said in his letter. “However, I also do not want to delay implementation in those counties where all of the stakeholders are able to proceed with criminal e-filing on October 1. It is critical that we continue to make progress in the transition to the use of electronic documents in courtrelated activities.”

Fifth Circuit State Attorney Brad King, president of the FPAA, said prosecutors will cooperate in the readiness review.

“I expect that each of the state attorneys will evaluate the e-filing within their circuit and within each of their counties and decide whether they need to apply individually for an extension,” King said. “The situation is the clerks and the e-portal people are actively working every day, so we’re not really going to know until we get right up against the deadline where they are with the process, and then we have to test . . . to make sure our systems will interface, and then we’ll be ready to go.”

Mandatory e-filing for civil cases in the trial courts and for the Supreme Court began April 1. Mandatory e-filing for the Second District Court of Appeal is set to start October 1.

[Revised: 10-23-2014]