Most Florida counties are now connected to the Internet portal that is the gateway to the new electronic filing system for Florida courts.
The Florida Courts E-Filing Authority Board, which oversees the portal, discussed county progress at its February 1 meeting in Orlando. The board, chaired by Orange County Clerk of Court Lydia Gardner, is made up of eight county court clerks and Supreme Court Clerk Tom Hall.
In an update on the e-filing system, the board was told that 46 counties are now accepting at least some civil filings and plans are underway to connect the other 21 counties. That’s a big jump. At the end of 2011, 20 counties were connected to the portal.
Court clerks have set a goal of having all counties capable of accepting electronic filings in all five civil divisions by July 1, and having all counties capable of accepting all criminal filings by the end of the year. (In a rules case pending at the Supreme Court, the Florida Courts Technology Commission has recommended that e-filing be made mandatory nine months after those dates, although the court has asked for more information before issuing its decision.)
Melvin Cox, of the Florida Association of Court Clerks and who is overseeing the implementation of the portal, said that for 2011, around 35,000 documents were filed through the electronic gateway and 6,000 lawyers registered to use the portal. Around 1,500 of those registered actually used it to file documents, he added. (E-filing went online in the first counties in January 2011.)
Among the advancements Cox discussed were:
• Levi Owens has been hired as the e-portal project manager and will work as a liaison between the clerks and the counties as they connect to the system. Owens is initially working with the 21 counties that have not yet connected to the portal to help them meet the July 1 deadline for accepting civil filings. He is also working with the counties that had their own e-filing systems before the statewide system was set up and integrating them into the portal.
• The e-filing software was updated on January 23 based on input from the initial court clerks already using the e-filing system. Cox said the new release makes 20 enhancements and addresses 50 “deficiencies” identified by the clerks. Enhancements include allowing the filer to pay for items such as number of defendants greater than five, summonses, and lis pendens. A feedback process has also been set up so input can be continually taken from the clerks, those suggestions ranked in importance, and then integrated in future software upgrades.
• Progress has been made on e-filing for criminal cases, particularly the ability to accept batch filing that is particularly important for state attorneys and public defenders, who handle large numbers of cases. Cox said he has worked with prosecutors and public defenders around the state, and the initial design for criminal filing will allow multiple filings in a single case or multiple filings in several different cases. “This is the major new functionality that is being added to this,” Cox said. “It will primarily enhance our criminal arena, but it will help all divisions as we move forward.”
• Electronic filing for the Supreme Court and district courts of appeal should be accomplished by the planned June 30 deadline.
A complete list of counties that have connected to the portal can be found on the authority’s website. Look for the information under the items on the board’s February 1 meeting agenda. Specific information on which counties are accepting e-filing and in which divisions will be posted soon on the authority’s website. Those wishing to register with the e-filing system can do so through the portal. Go here and follow the directions.
On another matter, Putnam County Clerk of Court Tim Smith was seated as a new member of the authority, replacing Clay County Clerk of Court James Jett, who is exploring a run for Congress.
The authority board set its next in-person meeting for April 24 at 8:30 a.m. in Gainesville, although it may have a teleconference before then. If the teleconference is scheduled, it will be listed in the public notice section on the authority’s website.