By Gary Blankenship
Updating rules relating to electronic filing and working with Bar procedural rules committees to eliminate as much paper as possible from the court system occupied the Florida Courts Technology Committee at its May 18 meeting in Jacksonville.
FCTC member Murray Silverstein, who heads a joint FCTC/Bar Rules of Judicial Administration Workgroup, presented an extensive report that covered FCTC technical policies, various court procedural rules, and a discussion on what constitutes official court records.
The FCTC did approve Silverstein’s motion to revoke FCTC Technology Standard 3.5.3, which requires maintaining original documents, including death certificates and those that require “original signatures such as affidavits, deeds, mortgages, and wills must be filed manually until further standards have been adopted.”
Silverstein said the problem was less that the standard encouraged the keeping of paper documents than it was really a procedural matter properly in the realm of Bar procedural rule committees rather than the FCTC, which is concerned with technical issues.
The Rules of Judicial Administration Committee and the Criminal Procedure Rules Committee will consider amendments at their June Bar Annual Convention meetings that affect filing of paper documents, he said.
The Criminal Procedure Rules Committee will be dealing with Rule 3.030(c), which requires the clerk to deposit any paper document that is a judgment or sentence or is required to be sworn or notarized.
The Rules of Judicial Administration Committee will consider several rule amendments, including that when a paper document is converted into an electronic form and deposited into a court file, the electronic version will be considered as original, Silverstein said. A related amendment would designate electronic court files as originals.
Another change would require attorneys, with only very rare exceptions, to file all documents with the court electronically, he said. Pro se parties would retain the option of filing paper documents (which the clerk would convert to electronic documents), but if a pro se party opted to file electronically, he or she would have to get a judge’s permission to file any paper documents.
Other recommendations from the joint workgroup, Silverstein said, include:
• Updating e-filing rules in the Rules of Judicial Administration. Silverstein said the current rules were passed in 2010 to allow for electronic filing, but before the present system, a statewide portal managed by the Florida Courts E-Filing Authority, was created. A new rule would acknowledge the system as it is actually operating, he said.
• Amending Rule of Judicial Administration 2.430 on retaining paper records to reduce the amount of time paper documents would have to be maintained after they have been converted to electronic documents, which would be considered originals once placed in the electronic court file.
• Amending FCTC standards and RJA rules to integrate the state’s e-notarization statute.
On a related matter, the FCTC approved by a 10-7 vote a motion by Silverstein to recommend that the Supreme Court establish a July 1, 2018, deadline for all judges to file their orders electronically. Silverstein argued it is incongruous to have all documents in a court case filed and handled electronically, and then have judges do final orders on paper and mail them to the parties.
“What lawyers are looking for and what self-represented litigants are looking for is full functionality of the system, so if you file through the system . . . you get the order that is served electronically,” he said.