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March 15, 2018
RJA proposes technical rules for electronic courts

Procedural rules acknowledging the changes brought about by electronic filing and the switch from paper to electronic documents have been approved by the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee.

The rules cover everything from the existence of the e-filing portal used for electronic filing to e-service to electronic signatures. Also specified is that the electronic file — not any paper documents — is the official court record.

The committee, which met at the Bar’s Winter Meeting, continues to work on two more related rules (2.515, Signature and Certification of Parties, and 2.420, Retention of Court Records) and wants to complete those before — after Bar Board of Governors review — submitting the rules to the Supreme Court in the late summer.

Committee Chair Judson Cohen explained the rules, while they might appear technical, are significant because they support the move of the court system from paper to electronic records.

“What you do on paper any more just doesn’t matter,” Cohen said. “These are significant things. It’s not form following function, it’s function. You want to get pleadings, you want to serve something, it’s a big deal.”

Among the rules amended or proposed:

• Rule 2.345 allows electronic signatures by justices, judges, magistrates, clerks, and other court officials and sets standards for those signatures.

• Rule 2.515 requires signatures on all filed court documents, allows electronic signatures, and specifies how attorneys must electronically sign documents.

• Rule 2.516 provides that e-service through the portal is the preferred method of service and regulates other methods of service, such as for paper documents.

• Rule 2.520 regulates documents that are filed and sets standards for electronic documents, including that they must be in the PDF format, be text searchable, and comply with the Florida Supreme Court Standards for Electronic Access to the Courts. It also covers electronic and nonelectronic exhibits.

• Rule 5.525 provides that “The official court file is a set of electronic documents docketed and stored in a computer system maintained by the clerk under this rule. Documents in the official court file are originals for all purposes except as otherwise provided by statute or rule.” It also mandates that attorneys must file through the statewide e-filing portal and that electronic versions of filed paper documents will be the official court documents, with the paper documents either being destroyed or returned to the original filer. The rule also addressed notarizing documents, adding the filed date and time to a document, and sets out errors on a document that will prevent it from being docketed.

[Revised: 03-20-2018]