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March 1, 2014
Clerks encountering e-filing storage problems

When you file a document through the Florida court system’s statewide electronic filing portal, how are you preparing it?

Are you converting a Word or WordPerfect document with an electronic signature to a PDF and then filing?

Or are you printing out a copy, signing it, and then scanning the document in preparation for filing through the portal?

According to information presented to the Florida Courts E-Filing Authority, many, if not most, lawyers are doing the latter.

The result is causing electronic storage problems for clerks who receive the filings.

Authority member Don Barbee, Hernando County clerk, said his office had already been converting paper files to electronic ones by scanning for five years before e-filing started.

But since e-filing became mandatory in April, his computer memory requirements have doubled from the previous five years.

Barbee attributed it to the scanning habits of filing attorneys.

At the authority’s February meeting, Melvin Cox, director of information technology for the portal, said an analysis of filed documents supports Barbee’s contention.

“Basically, in the paper [filing] world, clerks used commercial grade scanners and they had total control over the scanning process so there was uniformity in how things were scanned and over the [scanning] standards,” he said.

Now it’s up to each law office whether to use an electronic signature and directly file a document or to print out the document, sign it, and then scan and file the scanned documents.

“A large majority of the [e-filed] PDFs were not searchable when they came into the portal, which tells us they were scanned using a low-quality scanner,” Cox said.

He noted that scanners may also use a higher resolution than needed, which results in a larger digital document. (Portal standards call for 300 dpi for scanned documents.)

“The result is we’re getting different types of documents and that increases the [clerks’] storage costs,” Cox said.

Portal staff members are looking at solutions, he said, but they are somewhat restricted because they don’t want to do anything that discourages electronic filings or causes documents to be rejected.

One thing that could help, Cox said, is educating lawyers about using electronic signatures, which are allowed by court procedural rules and which, in turn, could reduce the need for scanning.

The authority offers training manuals at its website, including help with electronic filing and using electronic signatures.

Information can be found at www.myflcourtaccess.com.

Look for training manuals under the “Help” button on the top right of the page. Rules of Judicial Administration 2.515(a) and (b) gives information about electronic signatures.

[Revised: 02-23-2015]