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Court filings still edging up from pandemic lows

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laptopFiling activity for Florida courts is continuing to recover from a COVID-19-induced slump, although activity remains well below where it was at the start of the year.

The Florida Courts E-Filing Authority, at its September 16 meeting, heard that electronic filings through the statewide e-filing portal showed a modest increase in August, for the third month in a row. That followed dramatic decreases in filing activity in April and May as law offices sent people home to work remotely, courts ceased most in-person activities including jury trials, and the state locked down in response to the spread of COVID-19.

Documents filed for August topped 2.1 million, slightly more than were filed either June or July and significantly higher than the around 1.8 million filed in each of April and May, according to Carolyn Weber, portal program manager. That’s below the 2.2 to 2.3 million filed each month from January through March.

She reported there were 79,206 new cases filed in August. That compares to 69,397 in April, 69,910 in May, 75,545 in June, and 77,236 in July. It’s still well below the record 98,412 new cases filed in January. (New cases do not reflect criminal case initiation, which is still almost completely done via paper.)

“January, February, and March of 2020, our numbers were really high,” Weber said. “Then the pandemic hit and we had our drop in April, and May was even a little bit more of a drop.

“We’re starting now to come back. In June, July, and August, we’re steadily increasing in our submissions.”

Appellate activity also ticked up slightly for the five district courts of appeal, with a total of 10,879 filed documents in August, compared to 10,217 in July and 10,984 in May. In March, before the pandemic, the DCAs took in 12,973 documents. The Supreme Court received 588 documents in August, up from 431 in July but down from nearly 1,000 a month it averaged from February through May.

Weber also reported there are more proposed court orders and other documents being filed to judges through the portal, and judicial use of the portal to send out orders and other case documents is also increasing.

Aside from the activity report and other business, authority members elected Clay County Clerk of Court Tara Green as vice chair and Indian River Clerk of Court Jeff Smith as secretary/treasurer, swapping the roles they had held on the authority board.

Also, Sarasota Clerk of Court Karen Rushing took over as the authority’s chair. She had been elected previously to replace long-time Chair and retiring Putnam County Clerk of Court Tim Smith.

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