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E-Filing Authority signs off on agreement to expedite public availability of filings while protecting confidential information

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E-Filing AuthorityThe Florida Courts E-Filing Authority Board of Directors met August 26 to discuss settlement negotiations regarding an order granting injunctive relief in a federal lawsuit involving timely access to electronic court filings.

In federal Case No. 4:22cv106-MW/MAF, the court required the Florida Courts E-Filing Authority to implement a solution requiring all Portal users to designate whether case-initiating documents contain confidential information when filing circuit civil, county civil, and small claims cases.

Chair Karen Rushing, the Sarasota County clerk, opened the meeting and immediately called the E-Filing Authority board into an executive session to discuss the settlement. Upon adjournment, the board announced the unanimous approval of the settlement agreement.

The settlement requires the E-Filing Authority to implement a statewide Portal review queue for circuit civil complaints. Courthouse News Service, the plaintiff, agreed to drop the injunction and its request for the authority to pay attorney’s fees.

“This case required the board to come forward with solutions on how better to address confidential information,” Rushing said. “The addition of these new confidentiality ‘buttons’ gives our clerks enhanced quality assurances in the redaction of confidential information.”

All filers now must make a designation noting whether:

A. The document(s) submitted contain no confidential information as defined by Rule 2.420; or

B. The document(s) are accompanied in the same filing session by a Notice of Confidential Information within Court Filing as provided in Rule 2.420; or

C. The document(s) are accompanied in the same filing session by a Motion to Determine Confidentiality of Court Records as provided in Rule 2.420. ECF No. 61-1 at 2.

Filers who select option “A” must—before filing—acknowledge that their filings will be made publicly available. Filers who select options “B” or “C” will have their filings deemed confidential and flagged for further review and processing.

Portal Program Manager Carolyn Weber also discussed the use of confidentiality buttons on civil documents during her July progress report. The buttons were put in place August 20.

Weber said the Portal team will work with several certified third-party vendors to ensure clerks are up to speed on these new confidentiality requirements. Each clerk can use the confidentiality designations to filter these documents to determine how they want to handle them.

Following the conclusion of the executive session, the board continued with regular business.

Weber also presented the board with additions to Portal release 2022.02, which is expected to be implemented October 29. These changes add the Sixth District Court of Appeal and C-track integrations.

The board voted to approve these additions and adding Morgan and Morgan and Armguard Solutions as new third-party vendors.

The E-Portal Progress Report for July shows that almost 476,000 registered users of the Florida system file over 85,000 documents daily. The E-Portal service desk reported 4,255 service desk tickets in July. That number was down nearly 5% from June.

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