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Attorneys still not filings Portal documents in the correct PDF/A format

Senior Editor Top Stories

A record 123,476 new cases were filed in May, while June saw a record of 1.89 million submissions with 2.79 million documents

Woman Using LaptopMore than half of Florida lawyers are still not electronically filing their court documents in the preferred format, while pro se parties, who are allowed to do paper filing, are doing some electronic filing in a variety of case types, according to the latest figures from the Florida Courts E-Filing Authority.

The authority’s board, which oversees the court system’s statewide electronic filing Portal, got a report on September filing statistics. Those showed filings were fairly steady although lower than August, and less than record high numbers from last May and June.

“We are getting into the period where our numbers will be down a little bit because of the holidays,” said Carolyn Weber, Portal program manager.

She reported that 5% of documents submitted in September were in Word format, 52% were scanned PDF documents, and 43% were text-based PDFs. Court technology standards called for filings to be in the text PDF/A format.

Text-based PDF/A is the official format for the Florida court system, and the format that all clerks will soon use as the official storage for court records.

Court officials have said there are problems with other formats, including scanned images that require more electronic storage space. In addition, many if not most scanned documents are not searchable (as required by court technical standards), hyper and internal links won’t work, and there’s always a chance that text or data will be corrupted when a text document is scanned, which in turn taints the official court records.

According to Portal statistics, in September 2.15 million documents were filed in civil courts and 424,984 in criminal courts. In civil court, 28.3% were PDF/A, 67.5% were in another PDF format, 4.1% were in other formats, and only 44.5% were searchable. In criminal cases, 31.9% were in PDF/A, 61.4% in another PDF format, 6.6% were in non-PDF formats, and only 36.6% were searchable.

Pro se parties electronically filed 1,764 new cases in September and made 13,514 filings in existing cases. Self-represent litigants started 874 domestic relations cases, 314 evictions, 224 county civil matters, 129 probate matters, 24 circuit civil cases, and 29 other types of cases.

For electronic filings in existing cases, 4,352 came in domestic relations cases, 2,341 in circuit civil matters, 1,237 in criminal cases, 1,223 in county civil matters, 944 in eviction cases, and 766 in probate cases.

Few of the self-represented litigants used DIY forms prepared by the Office of the State Courts Administrator and available on the Portal, although the availability of those forms has not received much publicity.

A total of 61 DIY forms were filed in September: 23 answers to small claims, 17 answers to evictions, five in dissolution cases, four as statements of claims for cases up to $8,000, three as a child custody jurisdiction and enforcement affidavit, one domestic violence protection petition, and the rest in a variety of other cases.

According to court officials, the vast majority of self-represented litigants still do paper filings, although the Supreme Court and court officials are exploring ways to make electronic participation in the courts easier for pro se parties.

Overall on September filings, there were 1.7 million submissions with 2.5 million documents, filed to the courts though the Portal. Of those, 10,389 submissions were to the district courts of appeal and 417 to the Supreme Court. There were 87,042 new cases filed.

That compares to 1.87 million submissions with 2.68 million documents in August and 1.77 million submissions with 2.57 million documents in July. There were 92,119 new cases filed in August and 94,208 in July.

A record 123,476 new cases were filed in May, while June saw a record of 1.89 million submissions with 2.79 million documents.

Weber said there has been a steady growth in September filings over the past five years. In 2017, there were 991,461 filings with 1.4 million documents in September.

Seventy-seven percent of September filings came from attorneys and 16% came from judicial filers. The rest came from process services, pro se parties, mediators and arbitrators, mental-health professionals, and others.

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