E-Filing Authority debuts new public access site
The Florida Courts E-Filing Authority, the interlocal entity that oversees the court’s e-filing Portal, released its a new public access website October 29 for all non-confidential circuit civil case-initiating documents.
The site, titled “Statewide Non-Confidential Circuit Civil Filings,” provides public access to all circuit civil submissions over the past five days beginning with the newest first.
Housed within the Florida Courts E-Filing Portal, the public may now view case-initiating documents once they register for a free account. Once registered, users can click on the “Filing Access” tab at the top right corner of the page to enter the database.
Once on the page, there is a drop-down menu that allows the user to select files from certain counties. All documents uploaded to the site provide the user with the notice of electronic filing (NEF), and the filing status, and are updated with the case number once accepted by the clerk.
For Florida’s e-filing legal community, the construction of this new database means adhering to several new procedures when filing court documents.
Upon the initiation of circuit civil, county civil, or small claims cases, filers will find a series of radio buttons regarding confidentiality. These buttons prompt the user to make a designation noting whether:
- The document(s) submitted contain no confidential information as defined by Rule 2.420; or
- 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
- 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.
The buttons place a flag on the filing, allowing the Portal and the clerk to prioritize incoming case documents. If the filer chooses the button indicating that the filing has nothing confidential, there is a final statement that the filer must check agreeing that there is nothing confidential. By using the flag designation, the documents determined by the filer to contain nothing confidential are directly available on the new “Filings Access” site.
“The addition of these new confidentiality ‘buttons’ gives our clerks enhanced quality assurances in the handling of confidential information,” Sarasota Clerk Karen Rushing told the Florida Courts E-Filing Authority Board of Directors on August 26.
Additionally, filers should know that if there is more than one document filed with the complaint or other initiating documents, all documents in the submission are made available. Attorneys should ensure that anyone delegated to use the Portal to file a document on behalf of the attorney understands the importance of selecting the appropriate confidentiality indicator to avoid unauthorized access to confidential information.
The creation of this new database stems from a settlement agreement in a court order granting injunctive relief, federal Case No. 4:22cv106-MW/MAF, which required 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 in turn for a public access system in full transparency, the E-Filing Board of Directors plainly chose “Statewide Non-Confidential Circuit Civil Filing System,” as the title for the new database.
“We need to have full disclosure on what this public access system does,” Rushing told the board on October 10. “The name [of the system] needs to describe to the public exactly what they’re getting because they’re not getting everything.”
The federal case settlement gives the authority until 2023 to get it up and running. The board, however, set an internal date of October 29 for implementation.
“If the information is ready for release, then we want to go ahead and release it sooner rather than later,” said Clay County Clerk Tara Green.