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Practice Tips: When e-filing, a My Alerts notice requires action

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E-Filing PortalVirtually every Florida lawyer must now submit documents and related filings to the court system through the statewide electronic filing portal, managed by the Florida Courts E-Filing Authority. For several years, the portal has been the official venue for transmitting documents as the courts shifted from a paper based system to an electronic one. Following is the first of what will be periodic columns on behalf of the portal authority aimed at helping lawyers efficiently use the portal, which is continually being updated and improved.

You sign on to the Florida court system’s statewide electronic filing portal, but instead of going to the portal’s E-Filing Map or the portal home page you’ve selected, you end up someplace else: The portal’s My Alert page.

Filers can set preferences for the portal, including a “home page” where they will go every time they log on. However, the My Alert page “supersedes anything that they set in their preferences,” according to Carolyn Weber, portal program manager. “If they set a home page in their portal preferences, the portal will automatically take them to the My Alerts page when they log in if they have alerts pending.”

Alerts are the portal’s unsubtle way of communicating that something needs your attention. The My Alerts page will be your homepage until you have cleared all the pending alerts.

Weber said there are three reasons that generate an alert and cause the My Alerts page to pop up: 1) there is a deficiency in a submitted document and the submission has been moved to the correction queue; 2) there is an e-service email delivery failure; and 3) removal from the e-service list has been requested.

Perhaps the most common reason for an alert is a deficiency in the submission that causes it to be moved to the “correction queue” in the portal.

Not. Good.

That means the document has not been approved/accepted by the clerk and has not gone into the case file or been docketed. If it was an initial filing to open a case, no case was initiated. Your filing has gone to electronic purgatory — the correction queue — and you have five days to correct the deficiency and resubmit the submission.

Typical problems include filing the document in the wrong county; selecting the wrong case type, which means you are paying the wrong filing fee; attaching a document that is illegible or does not include a case number; or the submission consists of multiple documents filed as one document.

(Different jurisdictions may have slightly different reasons for rejecting a filing. However, the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee is working on an amendment to Rule 2.525(f), which would set a uniform standard and require docketing a submission unless it has a missing or incorrect case number or case style, it has multiple documents filed as one document, it is one multi-page document filed as multiple documents, it is unsigned, it contains illegible, corrupt, or blank content, or it is barred under a court order. The committee is considering comments to that proposed amendment, which was advertised in the August Bar News, before submitting it to the Supreme Court, which will again seek comments.)

Weber said on average, 2% of all filings wind up in the correction queue, although the rate varies from county to county and is as high as 9%. Submissions typically stay in the correction queue for 10 days. Some clerks then automatically send it to an abandoned file folder, or leave it in the correction queue.

When the My Alert page opens when a user logs on, there will be a link to the correction queue so the deficiency can be corrected and resubmitted and “all is good,” Weber said.

A second reason the Alert Page will be displayed is a failure of electronic service done through the portal for a filed document. That’s almost always because the would-be recipient’s email address is wrong on the email service list for that case.

“That’s all the filer’s responsibility, just like selecting who gets service by email notification,” Weber said. If a bounce back is received on a specific email address, an icon appears next to that bad email address on the e-service list. The person who has the bad email address linked to their portal account is responsible for making sure the email address is corrected and accurate.

It’s not a small problem. Weber said there are hundreds of bad email addresses on e-service lists and many if not most get multiple failed deliveries each month; in one instance there were 524 failed deliveries to one portal account.

Filers don’t have to wait for an alert. Weber said they can go at any time to the e-service list for an individual case and check there. Any address that has received a “bounce back” — that is the document was not successfully served at that email address — will have an icon next to the email address. That indicates that the email address is undeliverable, although Weber said some lawyers continue to ignore that warning and select the bad email address for e-service. But the e-service page gives a chance to avoid a My Alerts notice as well as check the service list accuracy in a specific case.

The third reason a user will be taken to the My Alerts page is they have placed someone on the e-service list who does not wish to be there.

“When a filer adds someone to an e-service list, the portal sends an email to that person notifying them they have been added,” Weber said. “That person can immediately respond to let the filer know they don’t wish to be included in that e-service list.”

When a filer receives an alert, he or she will always be taken to the My Alerts page when they access the portal until all alerts have been acknowledged or addressed.

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