By Gary Blankenship
A schedule for implementing mandatory electronic filing of court documents in Florida — including for criminal cases — has been requested by the Florida Supreme Court.
The court, in an August 8 administrative order, directed the Florida Courts Technology Commission, in consultation with the Florida Courts E-Filing Authority Board of Directors, to file an implementation schedule for e-filing within 30 days of the order.
The order came as part of case no. SC11-399, which deals with amendments to various procedural rules necessary to accommodate electronic filing.
The FCTC was ordered to submit “a supplemental comment which proposes a plan for phased-in implementation of mandatory e-filing by attorneys. The plan should specifically identify any unique issues regarding implementation of mandatory e-filing in the criminal divisions of the circuit court and for criminal appellate matters.”
Judge Judith Kreeger, chair of the FCTC, said the group may have to ask for a short extension but said the court’s request is logical. She noted that the pending rules case, set for oral argument on October 4, already has a provision to make e-filing mandatory.
She said the time extension request would encompass both the schedule and the oral argument date.
“I believe that the FCTC is going to ask the court to postpone the oral argument by a few weeks for several reasons: There just isn’t enough time to do what they want,” Kreeger said.
“We want to do a good job and do the kind of comprehensive job that the court wants.”
Problems, she said, include that many people are on vacation in August, and it can be difficult to round them up for a meeting. Plus, the terms for a third of the FCTC’s members have expired, and the commission is waiting for those members to be reappointed or replaced.
The court’s request is logical, Kreeger added, because the proposed changes to the procedural rules provide that at some point electronic filing for the courts will be mandatory.
“I think what they’re looking for is, ‘OK, what’s going to be the [phase-in] plan, all at once, [court] division by division, court by court?’
“They want us to flesh out a logical, orderly time frame that can realistically be obtained,” she said. “We need input from clerks and courts around the state.”
She said an FCTC working group would be meeting as this News went to press to address the issue. She said it was likely that a modest delay of a month or so would be enough to accommodate the court’s request.
Whenever the phase-in schedule is submitted, the order provided that, “Parties wishing to file comments to the proposed phase-in plan shall do so within 10 days of the filing of the supplemental comments of the FCTC.”