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Supreme Court order addresses e-filing for trial court judges

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Judge Lisa Munyon

“The administrative order requires judges to e-file once they have a fully functioning CAPS system and right now there’s only one county with a fully functioning CAPS system,” Ninth Circuit Court Judge Lisa Munyon said. But many counties are well along in the process and recent figures showed judges were filing 100,000 orders and other documents a month through the portal.

Bringing judges fully into Florida’s electronic court system by having them e-file orders and other court paperwork has been mandated by the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Charles Canady issued an administrative order on November 1 accepting recommendations from the Supreme Court Florida Courts Technology Commission and the Judicial E-filing Workgroup, which includes having judges electronically sign and file their orders.

It also means that lawyers electronically submitting proposed orders to judges, which has been gaining momentum throughout the state, will become the standard system.

The order directed that the Court Application Processing System, known as CAPS and already in use in much of the state “be deployed in every circuit, court, and division of Florida’s trial courts, and that CAPS be used by all judges, when available.”

The order directs the courts to seek funding to install and maintain CAPS from their individual counties.

“[T]he Court hereby requires judges to electronically sign orders and file them through the Portal or directly to the clerk’s case maintenance system when CAPS is available, fully-operational, and integrated with the Portal to receive proposed orders and file electronically signed orders. The Court also encourages the utilization of standardized, self-populating templates to improve the consistency of orders from case to case and county to county. Finally, although several CAPS systems allow for the direct filing of proposed orders, the Court supports the continued development of the Portal and hereby encourages the submission of proposed orders through the Portal to CAPS.”

The order noted that part of a successful electronic court system includes having judges receive proposed orders through the portal.

Circuit chief judges are charged with reporting compliance with the order.

The administrative order stemmed from a recommendation from the Florida Courts Technology Commission that the former Chief Justice Jorge Labarga referred to the Judicial E-filing Workgroup. Ninth Circuit Court Judge Lisa Munyon chairs the FCTC and headed the workgroup.

“The administrative order requires judges to e-file once they have a fully functioning CAPS system and right now there’s only one county with a fully functioning CAPS system,” she said. But many counties are well along in the process and recent figures showed judges were filing 100,000 orders and other documents a month through the portal.

Sixty-five counties have some version of CAPS being used in civil or criminal divisions, or both, Munyon said, and 45 counties can accept electronically filed proposed orders into CAPS and route them to judges. In 59 counties, judges can electronically sign orders and file them either directly or through the portal to clerks.

Funding can be an issue. Munyon said existing systems were paid for by counties or by a special grant several years ago that resulted from a settlement in a mortgage foreclosure fraud case brought by former Attorney General Pam Bondi.

“Chief judges of the trial courts are responsible for overseeing implementation of judicial e-filing within their respective circuit, pursuant to the policies and guidance set forth in this administrative order,” the order said. “Chief judges shall notify the Florida Courts Technology Commission when each county within their respective circuit has fully implemented judicial e-filing in accordance with this administrative order. If a trial court is not able to fully implement judicial e-filing in every county in that circuit within six months of the date of this order, the chief judge shall report that information to the Florida Courts Technology Commission and continue to report on a biannual basis thereafter until every county within the circuit has fully implemented judicial e-filing. The report shall include a description of the trial court’s progress and indicate the reasons it has not implemented judicial electronic filing within that jurisdiction, including when it is not practical.”

Multi-county circuits must report county by county, according to the order.

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