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August 15, 2012
Courts’ transition to e-filing well underway

Keeping the Supreme Court updated on electronic filing progress, ensuring uniformity for e-filing in different counties, and monitoring the progress of counties in making e-filing available for attorneys occupied the Florida Courts E-Filing Authority at its July 26 teleconference.

The authority runs the Internet portal that is the sole access to the new e-filing system being set up for the state court system.

The portal board heard that 51 of the state’s 67 counties made the July 1 date set by Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers for being ready to accept all types of civil filings from attorneys. (See related story, here.)

Some counties are still accepting electronic filings through their local e-filing systems that predated the portal and the statewide e-filing effort, and those counties are continuing to work to connect to the portal.

Santa Rosa Clerk Mary Johnson According to the newest Supreme Court order in case no. SC11-399, the drop-dead date for attorneys and clerks to begin e-filing all civil case types is April 1, 2013. So while counties are in process, some are having issues with migration to new systems.

Putnam County Clerk and Portal Authority Chair Tim Smith began a discussion about a standing report to the Supreme Court to keep it abreast of the accomplishments and the on-going needs across the state, for both the trial court clerks and the appellate clerks.

“It would be a good way for us to work with the court and make sure they are aware that we are continuing to move forward,” Smith said. “If we keep our partners aware of the status, there are no surprises.”

Sarasota County Clerk Karen Rushing said it was important to provide the status report to the Legislature so lawmakers were also aware of the progress being made.

The board also discussed the request from two counties to authorize access to nonattorney agencies so they can file paperwork in criminal cases. That would allow local law enforcement the ability to send case information electronically, rather than make a special trip to the clerk’s office to drop off paperwork. In particular, it would help in Santa Rosa County where the criminal e-filing process has taken a front seat.

Santa Rosa Clerk Mary Johnson receives electronic case filings from the state attorney and the public defender, then electronically sends the criminal case paperwork to the judges. Johnson said the judges are handling cases with computers on the bench.

“Getting documents from the other court partners electronically, such as local law enforcement, corrections, or probation, would make this a more complete process,” Johnson said.

While the authority has discussed nonattorney access in the past, it was in the context of paralegals, pro hac vice, and pro se users. Board members’ sentiment was to keep focused on the goal of getting every county connected for civil cases, then moving on to criminal. The board instructed its staff to reach out to representatives of The Florida Bar and continue the policy discussion at the next meeting.

The board also revisited the issue of standardization and uniformity. Last April, the board entertained a presentation of the portal and noted that the document types listed on the drop-down menus were different for each county, as counties are currently permitted to choose how in-depth they want the types to be.

For instance, in one county, the document selection menu may say “Motion.” In another county, the choice may be between various types of motions, such as “Motion to Continue,” or “Motion to Suppress.”

Katie Glynn, staff attorney for the Marion County Clerk’s Office and member of the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers’ Best Practices Workgroup on Portal Standardization, updated the board on progress. Rushing, who has highlighted that issue at past meetings, said that was “music to her ears” and that she “just wants to make sure that those who use the portal can use it in the same manner in each county.”

“Uniformity is important to the state attorneys,” said Tom Morris, Eighth Circuit State Attorney’s Office technology director and e-filing liaison for state attorneys. “While being more uniform makes my job easier, it is going to be more costly for some that have to change their systems to meet the standards.”

Smith asked for a presentation on what is being done on uniformity and standardization at the next meeting in order to bring the new members up to speed.

Two new clerks joined the authority board at the July meeting: Gloria Hayward, Sumter County clerk, and P. Dewitt Cason, Columbia County clerk. Cason served as board member and chair of the authority for its inaugural year, 2010-11.

The authority has established a meeting schedule for the next year. Posted on the authority homepage, , under Public Notices, there is a monthly meeting, both in-person and by WebEx. The next meeting is August 16, to be held by WebEx.

(This report was compiled by the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers — formerly the Florida Association of Court Clerks and Comptrollers — and edited by the Bar News.)

[Revised: 04-12-2015]