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August 1, 2012
Authority braces for expanded portal use

Use of the Internet portal, the gateway to the developing electronic filing system for Florida courts, is rapidly expanding, and the authority that oversees the portal is preparing for even faster growth in the coming year.

Florida Courts E-Filing Authority Orange County Clerk of Court Lydia Gardner, outgoing chair of the Florida Courts E-Filing Authority, gave a recap of the agency’s recent activities at its annual meeting, held June 12 in Panama City Beach.

She commended those clerks and their staff who have helped the portal grow since it went into operation at the start of 2011.

“By July 2011, there were 16 counties that had connected to the portal and had the ability to accept e-filed documents in at least one civil court area,” Gardner said.

“Today, June 2012, there are 33 counties connected and meeting that standard. Others are gaining capability daily.

“In 2011, from January to June, there were 6,225 documents filed. Today, there have been over 101,625 documents filed since the portal opened.

“Currently, about 9,865 cases are being filed per month; about 13,523 documents are being filed per month, and there are 8,760 attorneys registered to use the portal.”

She noted that the authority worked with the Florida Courts Technology Commission on a plan to implement e-filing in civil court areas.

Emphasis is now switching to phasing in e-filing for criminal cases which, like civil filing, is being done in conjunction with the FCTC.

Gardner appointed Miami-Dade County Clerk of Court Harvey Ruvin and Putnam County Clerk of Court Tim Smith to represent the authority in that effort.

Gardner’s comments came nine days before the Supreme Court released an opinion approving procedural rules to govern electronic filing.

That opinion also set deadlines for requiring lawyers to switch from paper filing to electronic filing.

Filing for all civil divisions (circuit civil, county civil, probate, family, and juvenile dependency) will be required by April 1, 2013.

Filing in all criminal divisions (circuit criminal, county criminal, criminal traffic, civil traffic, and juvenile delinquency) will be required by October 1, 2013.

Electronic filing in the district courts of appeal and the Supreme Court will be mandatory as of October 1, 2012.

Gardner, in her comments, noted that the opinion was expected shortly, and provided other steps the authority was taking to get ready for the mandatory filing deadlines.

To better coordinate with the criminal court system partners on implementing criminal e-filing, Gardner invited representatives of the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association and the Florida Public Defender Association to work with the authority. Gardner not only asked for each association’s input, but also requested each group to name a technical liaison, which they have done.

In January, there was an upgrade to the portal software, Gardner said, and the Florida court clerks and comptrollers hired an e-portal project manager, Levi Owens.

Owens keeps the clerks up-to-date on the current happenings of e-filing and the statewide e-portal and helps them implement the e-filing system.

Gardner closed by telling the members:

“We are ahead of many other states and doing so at a fraction of the cost. Florida’s clerks, as a whole, are moving more uniformly and more expediently toward full e-filing than is seen in most other states, states that may only have one court, in one county, accepting e-filings through a statewide portal.

“The Florida Courts Technology Commission’s outgoing chair, Judge Judith Kreeger, has recently noted that the clerks and the authority were proceeding ‘cautiously and wisely with e-filing.’

“We, as an authority, are doing what is needed to bring our whole state into the modern age of using the Internet, using a processing portal, and helping our courts and clerks’ offices to meet this challenge. The authority is working with our trial court systems’ partners, from the civil and criminal sectors, to the Supreme Court and district courts, to help them meet this challenge as well.”

At the close of the annual meeting, Gardner figuratively passed the gavel to Smith, the Putnam County clerk, who will serve as chair for the 2012-13 term.

“I know that the issues we are facing this next year will be challenging, but I look forward to that challenge,” Smith told the board.

“I am proud that so many of the clerks’ offices are either already e-filing locally or have successfully connected to the e-portal for civil case types.”

During the meeting, he suggested establishing open communications with the Supreme Court by providing a letter from the authority on statewide readiness.

“The continued effort to connect all local case maintenance systems to the portal is Aegean, with each case type having its own unique set of rules and players,” said Smith.

For more information about the authority and its activities, visit its website at www.flclerks.com/eFiling_authority.html.

To view and register to use the e-filing portal, go to www.myflcourtaccess.com.

(Editor’s Note: The information in this story was compiled by the Florida Association of Court Clerks, which staffs the Florida Court’s E-Filing Authority, and was edited by the News.)

[Revised: 04-04-2014]