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Phasing in e-filing

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Phasing in e-filing

Write this down, or more appropriately mark it with a bookmark, add it to your favorites, or put a placeholder on it — whatever your Internet browser allows: . ( This link is expected to become active by January 1. )

That’s the official online address for the Florida court system’s new statewide e-portal, the mechanism that as of January 1 will begin to allow lawyers to file cases and paperwork from anywhere they have Internet access.

The Florida E-Filing Authority, which oversees operation of the portal, met December 8 to take care of several issues, including picking the online address and setting fees for doing electronic filing. The panel also approved a resolution advocating that at some point e-filing be made mandatory for lawyers.

The authority board, made up of eight county court clerks plus Supreme Court Clerk Tom Hall, considered several possible Internet addresses before adopting one hammered out at the meeting. The address is one of the last steps in setting up electronic filing for courts, something mandated by the Legislature in 2009.

So far, the Florida Supreme Court has approved five of 10 divisions in the trial courts for accepting electronically filed documents: probate, juvenile, circuit civil, county civil, and domestic relations. Not all counties, though, have been approved for accepting filings in all five areas. Virtually all are expected to be accepting probate cases as they join the electronic filing system.

Filing will be voluntary, and for the first 90 days those doing electronic filing must also file paper copies in the traditional way in case any glitches are found. Not every county will start accepting electronic filings on January1. The board directed that there be a scheduled phase in. That schedule was still being determined as this News went to press. That list, which will also include which of the five approved areas are being accepted by each county, is expected to be posted on the portal site.

Also, as various clerks join the e-filing system, they may reach out to some law firms in their communities to help smooth out the system.

Complete directions for setting up an e-filing account and using the portal can be found in a story in the December 1 Bar News.

At its previous meeting, the portal board rejected a credit card payment system for e-filing that would have been spearheaded by Visa. Instead, at its December 8 meeting the board approved a plan that will accept MasterCard, Discover, and American Express credit card payments, as well as payment by electronic check.

Those fees will be 3 percent of the filing fees and other costs for those using credit cards and $3 per transaction for those using electronic checks. That’s projected to bring enough to pay for the credit card and electronic check services.

The portal board also voted to recommend that the Florida Courts Technology Commission (FCTC), which oversees court-related technology issues including electronic filing, and the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee consider a rule that, after the portal and e-filing systems are operating reliably, would require lawyers to use electronic filing.

The board also recommended that the Florida Association of Court Clerks, which is providing technical and staffing support for the portal and the Florida E-Filing Authority, continue to work on programs that would allow pro se litigants to file paperwork online. A Supreme Court Workgroup — which includes two clerks who are also on the portal board — is discussing ways to help pro se litigants and feels the portal would be an easy way for those filers to access the court system. Clerks said incorporating forms into the portal could reduce the time they have to spend now on assisting pro se litigants.

The board set its next meeting for January 11 in Orlando.

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