For those confused or curious about how The Florida Bar’s e-filing portal works, here’s the information that you need to get started. In this episode of The Florida Bar Podcast from the 2018 Annual Florida Bar Convention, host Jonathon Israel talks to Amy Borman and Murray Silverstein about the Florida Bar’s e-filing portal, how it works, and how attorneys can get their documents properly e-filed. They explain document submission standards and offer resources to help Florida attorneys stay current on all things e-filing.
Amy Borman currently serves as the 15th Judicial Circuit’s first general counsel.
Murray Silverstein is managing partner in Greenspoon Marder’s Tampa office.
The Florida Bar Podcast
2018 Annual Florida Bar Convention: Florida Courts E-Filing Portal
Intro: Welcome to The Florida Bar Podcast, where we highlight the latest trends in law office and law practice management to help you run your law firm, brought to you by The Florida Bar’s Practice Resource Institute. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Jonathon Israel: Hello and welcome to The Florida Bar Podcast, brought to you by the Practice Resource Institute on Legal Talk Network. This is Jonathon Israel and I am the Director of the Florida Bar’s Practice Research Institute and I am recording today from the 2018 Annual Florida Bar Convention in Orlando, Florida. Thank you for joining us.
So joining me today I have Amy Borman and Murray Silverstein who just wrapped up their presentation on E-Filing and dealing with the e-courts here in Florida. I would like to give them now a chance to introduce themselves.
And Murray, would you mind telling our audience a little bit about yourself and your background?
Murray Silverstein: Sure. Thank you Jonathon. My name is Murray Silverstein. I am an attorney. I have been practicing in Florida for about 36 years. I have a civil and commercial litigation practice in Tampa. And like Amy, I am a rule geek and have been serving on Rule Committees for the Florida Bar for some time, including a relatively recent addition called the Florida Courts Technology Commission.
And as you heard in the seminar, the FCTC is responsible for recommending policy and procedures for technology in the courts to the Supreme Court that has the ultimate authority for promulgating policy in Florida.
And so that’s what I do, active full-time litigation lawyer, but I spend my free time and vacations doing things avocationally like serving on Bar Rule Committees. It’s my fun.
Jonathon Israel: Fun.
Murray Silverstein: Pretty much so.
Jonathon Israel: Yes. And Amy, do you mind telling our audience a little bit about yourself?
Amy Borman: Sure. Thanks Jonathon. My name is Amy Borman. I am General Counsel to the 15th Judicial Circuit in West Palm Beach, Florida. I have the unique job of being the attorney for the 54 judges here in West Palm Beach, as well as for the 15th Judicial Circuit.
Like Murray, I am a rule geek. We have both served as Chair for the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee. Having sat on that Committee for six years I have termed off, but I am still involved in some ad hoc committees dealing with rewriting some of our Rules of Judicial Administration.
Jonathon Israel: That’s great. Thank you both for sitting and joining us today. I am really glad to have the opportunity to talk to you, because in The Practice Resource Institute we get so many questions from Bar members about the E-Filing Portal and how to interface with it and what they need to be doing with their documents to get them properly e-filed. So this is a great opportunity for our listeners to really learn how it works and what to do.
So really if we can just start with the basics about the E-Filing Portal, is there one specific portal for the state?
Murray Silverstein: Yes.
Jonathon Israel: Okay.
Murray Silverstein: So there is a single point of entry. It’s accessible anywhere in the State of Florida, and it is essentially a pass through. The Portal is as a conduit, a means through which you can file and now the service also effects Service of Process. So you file your document, the portal receives it, it serves it simultaneously, almost simultaneously, within minutes and then it’s routed down to the what’s called CMS, Local Clerks Case Management or Case Maintenance System in the respective counties throughout the State of Florida.
So then you can use the portal to also access your documents if you would like or you can go directly to the local CMS to access and view your documents.
If you are of record, you get everything simultaneously with service and you can build your database of filed court documents that way, but if you are not of record in the case, you can get your items by accessing and viewing through the CMS.
But the portal is easy access, single point of entry, statewide, uniform, and is actually managed by the Portal Authority that is an eight member board of clerks of the courts throughout Florida, their volunteer positions.
Jonathon Israel: Yeah. And I think one of the questions that we get into The Practice Resource Institute a lot is how do I even get signed up for the Portal. There is some confusion there as far as information that I need to have on record, whether it’s my Bar email address, my Bar number, what it is that they need to really get started and get registered with the Portal?
Murray Silverstein: It’s an interactive, pretty easy process. You can just simply google My Florida Courts or MyFlorida Portal and you will create a username, a password, information, including your Florida Bar number, assuming you are a lawyer. You actually have user rights now if you are not a lawyer. Non-lawyer mediators can register, process servers, mental health professionals and others can also register to file through the Portal, but the single-most largest group of users is still lawyers.
And so you put that information in, you create your account. Username and password then creates the mechanism through which you file through the Portal. And you will typically be able to also designate a staff person who can also be on the certificate of service or the E-Filing Portal service list. So it’s relatively simple, relatively easy. And the website itself is loaded with tutorials and instructional videos and related information.
In fact, Carolyn Weber was one of the people on our panel this morning and she is the one who has helped create those videos.
Jonathon Israel: And then as far as the standards for the Portal go, as far as document submission, that’s another question that we get in there a lot. Are there any set standards that they need to be following with their documents?
Murray Silverstein: Yeah, the documents themselves can be filed as Word processed documents, actually WordPerfect or Word and the Portal has the capability to convert those to PDFs, but the best practice is to create your own digital document by converting your Word processed document into a PDF, file it as a PDF.
In fact, there are numerous things we went through in this morning’s seminar about the needs to protect confidentiality, minimize sensitive information and make sure that what you are putting in is properly redacted so that anything that’s inappropriate, juvenile names, bank account numbers, Social Security Numbers have been minimized or redacted, and then if there is confidential information, that also has to be either withheld or identified so the clerk can locate that and essentially scrub it or redact it.
But the actual document creation process is no more difficult than a right-click to convert your Word documents into a PDF, Adobe PDF, save it to your desktop, properly name it and then upload it and file it through the Portal. The process takes probably less than five minutes.
Amy Borman: And Jonathon, if I can chime in for a second, one of the important things that people have to realize is that the documents should be created in either Word or if they still use WordPerfect, but as Murray said saved as a PDF on the computer.
We just got some statistics for the May filings and of the 1., almost 2 million documents, only 712,000 were done correctly; that is being created by a Word processing software and then saved as a PDF.
We had 1.3 million that were PDFs, but they were scanned. So it would be the situation where you had a document and then you took a pen and you signed your name and then you put it through your copier as a scanner and then e-filed it. While it says it’s a PDF, it technically is just a picture image of the document. That is not searchable, which is one of the requirements, and it also takes up more space on the servers at the Portal.
There were over 111,000 documents that were filed as Word documents rather than as PDFs and 58 WordPerfect documents. What Murray had mentioned before with — I believe he mentioned the standards, while there are rules of procedure governing e-filing and e-service, the Florida Courts Technology Commission has set up a set of standards that will govern how something is to be filed; the size of it, the text size or whatever you need with regard to standards and that can be found on the FCT website as well or webpage.
Murray Silverstein: FCTC website, yeah.
Jonathon Israel: I am glad you brought up the issue about the printing of the document, signing it and scanning it back in, because I know that’s a big hang-up for a lot of attorneys that just don’t understand how else are they supposed to do it when they need to require a client signature, do you have some advice or tips?
Amy Borman: With the client signature and some of these I am going to defer to Murray because he is a practitioner; I represent the court, so I can answer more questions with regard to the court side of it, but if there are exhibits that require client signature, you can’t do anything but scan that document in, unless you have e-notarization or an e-signature from the client.
It’s really the lawyers are under the obligation to create their document in Word or WordPerfect and then right-click and save it as an Adobe PDF. And we are moving to a PDF/A Standard because the document should be or must be readable for OCR, which stands for —
Murray Silverstein: Optical Character Recognition.
Amy Borman: Right. So that way if somebody is vision impaired, the document will be read to them through the OCR software. So that’s why it’s very important that the document itself is an Adobe PDF rather than a scanned document that has the PDF extension to it, but it truly is not a PDF.
Jonathon Israel: And Murray, did you have anything to add about the signature?
Murray Silverstein: No, but one of the things that’s great for the practitioners to start recognizing and becoming more aware about, as Amy mentioned, is these standards, these technology standards. And what’s really important is they are not court rules per se, but they are going to be married up essentially with the court rules.
So, the how-to of the megabyte limitation for a filing or a serve document, the manner in which an exhibit is attached to or identified as an attachment to a file document. The actual security that may be required for an e-signature and the attributes that go into the metadata that are part of the document created, including hyperlinks and bookmarks and indices and things like that, all that will be dealt with and is being dealt with in these technology standards promulgated by the Florida Supreme Court.
And so we are hoping that these will be an integral part of the Rules of Judicial Administration. They should be and can be integrated or incorporated into all the rule sets, but by being in that single rule set, RJA, it’s the easiest, most streamlined procedure through which practitioners will know about the technology requirements for documents that get into the system, as opposed to putting all that technical stuff into a court rule.
You don’t want the court rule being clogged up with information that may become stale, like converting from a 10 to a 50 megabyte limitation is something that occurred from three years ago to a year ago and you have other standards that are going to continue to remain dynamic and influx and you want those in something that’s a living, breathing, more dynamic set of documents like these technology standards.
Amy Borman: And for the listeners, if I can just add in, that if you google Florida Supreme Court Standards for Electronic Access to the Courts, that should pull up the document which is housed at HYPERLINK “http://www.flcourts.org” flcourts.org.
Jonathon Israel: And then you mentioned the FCTC website and then I know that the Bar News has been trying to do a really good job of keeping up with the latest changes and standards and everything else and get those out to the Bar members, and we ourselves at Practice Resource Institute are trying to do the same.
Are there other websites or other resources that the Bar members should be paying attention to, to make sure that they are not missing out on anything with the Portal?
Murray Silverstein: I would say Jonathon the best way to stay current and apprised is — your go-to source is going to be The Florida Bar, first and foremost. The Florida Bar Board of Governors for the last several years and in particular the last five has really placed technology in the courts at the forefront of the various President’s agendas and if you go to any of these locations that you just mentioned, they all link to one another.
So you can go to The Florida Bar website, it will link to the FCTC. The FCTC will link to the Florida Supreme Court. The Florida Supreme Court has OSCA, the Office of State Courts Administration. That also links to the FCCC, and vice versa, the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers Association. So they are all integrated in one way or another.
And so probably though what I would suggest for information on how to look to the informational stuff that’s available on the Bar’s website as well as the FCTC, and if you click on the — it’s actually — HYPERLINK “http://www.flcourts.org” flcourts.org is the site and it will take you to Court Technology and then lots and lots of great informational, current postings and articles and other links you could find there.
So it’s not for a lack of information, but I think at some point we are going to say well, it seems like you should be able to have a single way to tap in and then look at other alternatives. So the best way of doing that right now is just linking them together.
Jonathon Israel: Sure.
Amy Borman: And if I can also add that for the practitioner that’s listening or somebody working with Court Technology or technology in the law office, the website for the FCTC, a lot of the information is housed on HYPERLINK “flcourts.org/resources-and-services/court-technology/” flcourts.org/resources-and-services/court-technology/. When you get to that page, which is the Court Technology page, it will list Current Projects, Technology Commissions and Committees, E-Filing, the E-Record, Court Access, the Standards as well as the Applicable Rules and Statutes.
Jonathon Israel: Great. And then I know that also on the Portal’s website Carolyn has done a great job of putting training videos out there to help walk them through any questions they may have with — we touched briefly on the metadata and removing metadata from documents and I know she has got some great videos out there that will assist them with that as well. So that’s a great resource for them to reach out to.
Unfortunately, it looks like we have already reached the end of our program. I know we could go on for a long time talking about this. But I want to thank both Murray and Amy for joining us today and touching on e-filing and integrating with the e-courts.
If our listeners have any questions and want to follow up with either one of you, Amy how would they go and —
Amy Borman: The best way to reach me is through my email address, HYPERLINK “[email protected]” [email protected].
Jonathon Israel: Great. Thank you. And Murray, if they want to reach out to you?
Murray Silverstein: HYPERLINK “[email protected]” [email protected]. Telephone, (813) 769-7036. Thank a lot Jonathon. We appreciated being with you today.
Jonathon Israel: No, great, I appreciate both you guys being here.
Amy Borman: Thank you.
Jonathon Israel: Well, this has been another edition of The Florida Bar Podcast, brought to you by The Practice Resource Institute on Legal Talk Network. I want to thank our guests once again for joining us today.
If you liked what you heard, please find and rate us on iTunes. I am Jonathon Israel. And until next time, thank you for listening.
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