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January 15, 2012
Supreme Court asks for e-filing advice

The Florida Supreme Court has asked for more information before acting on a rules case that could set a schedule for mandatory electronic filing in Florida courts. Part of that request, issued last month, was for a reduction in the proposed number of exceptions from electronic filing in criminal cases.

The court also asked for advice on how mandatory electronic filing would affect mandatory electronic service of case documents and other paperwork between parties, which was the subject of a different rules case.

The court, on that topic, asked, “whether the deadlines set out in the proposed phase-in schedule for mandatory electronic filing also should apply in implementing mandatory electronic service.”

The electronic service rule was filed in 2010 and was a precursor to the mandatory e-filing rule, with the expectation e-service would eventually be incorporated into the e-filing system.

The court directed the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee and the Florida Court Technology Commission to create a workgroup to address that and two other questions related to the criminal rules. The workgroup was directed to submit its findings by February 6.

In the original e-filing petition, the Rules of Criminal Procedure Committee proposed several exceptions from electronic filing. Both the FCTC and the Florida Court E-filing Authority, which oversees the Internet portal which is the access to the e-filing system, opposed exempting that many documents.

The criminal rules committee proposed that paper filing be maintained for “charging documents, indictments, informations, petitions, affidavits, plea agreements, documents filed under seal, ex parte documents, and any documents which are required to be sworn or notarized. Original charging documents must be kept by the clerk in accordance with the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration. All other original documents filed in paper format must be scanned by the clerk and provided to the prosecuting authority to determine whether or not the original is kept.”

The court’s request for more information indicates the justices may well be siding with the FCTC.

“The Court has determined that the list of proposed exemptions from electronic filing in criminal cases is too broad,” the court’s order said. “The workgroup should develop a revised proposal narrowing that list. In light of the fact that any document required by a Florida Statute to be filed in paper format will be exempted under proposed Rule of Judicial Administration 2.525(d), [the e-filing proposed rule] the workgroup also should address whether specific exemptions in criminal cases are, in fact, necessary.”

The court also directed the workgroup to determine whether nonparties to criminal cases who have to file information, such as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Department of Corrections, should be required to electronically file that information.

The order came in case no. SC11-399. The proposed e-service rule is in case no. SC10-2101.

[Revised: 04-04-2014]