‘It will be a standard view for any case in any county’

By Gary Blankenship
Senior Editor

Attorneys, as well as all Floridians, will soon be able to access documents from any court case from any county through a single internet access point under a new program being rolled out by the clerks of courts.

The Florida Bar Board of Governors got a preview of the system at its recent May meeting from Lee County Clerk of Court Linda Doggett and Melvin Cox, IT director for the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers, which is developing the new system.

Board member Laird Lile, who also serves on the Florida Court Technology Commission, introduced Doggett and Cox and talked about the new project, which he likened to a reverse e-filing system. E-filing is done through a single, statewide internet portal.

Clerks, under an FCTC-supervised plan, are in the process of putting their court records online, but each county has its own system.

“You are all familiar with the e-portal, and the e-portal is a great step in the advancement in the way we file documents,” Lile said. “That’s only for getting the document into the court system. The portal doesn’t let us look at what’s in the court file. Right now to look at the court file, we get to go to whichever county it’s in and figure out how to get into that county’s particular website. That’s not as efficient as it could be.

“What the clerks have now is a system they would like to demonstrate for us that will have that single point of viewing, just like now we have the single point of filing.”

Doggett said the project uses the existing comprehensive case information system (CCIS), which is currently used by about 30,000 government employees who need access to court data.

She said clerks realized it is frustrating for attorneys to have to visit different websites for each clerk and deal with different methods of accessing, viewing, and formatting documents.

Doggett, who chairs the FCCC’s CCIS committee, said the organization obtained a grant, performed strategic planning, and devised a new way for electronic access by upgrading the existing CCIS program.

“The comprehensive case information system has been around for many years. . . . It is a database of all of the cases filed in Florida,” she said. The new system “will take and upload data from each clerk’s office in real time. When something is e-filed from your office, it will go to your clerk’s office, which will do their processing, but at the same time that information is going to the state [CCIS] database, and our customers will be able not only to pull up the case information, but see the documents.

“It will be a standard view for any case in any county,” Doggett continued. “You’ll see a standard view; you’ll be able to pull up the document in a standard format; and we’ll be able to then take that basic service and listen to our customers and find out what else you need that will be helpful.”

The system is being set up now, but each county requires a separate “rollout” and testing as it is added. It is not yet available anywhere for attorney access. Doggett said the entire system should be operating statewide by the end of the year, and attorneys should contact their local clerk to request access.

Cox provided an online demonstration of how the system works.

“It’s like having a login to all 67 clerks’ case management systems,” he said, adding attorneys will need a login and password to use the system, but that it is not yet ready for lawyer access.

Lawyers and other users can type in the case number and all of the related information – names of parties, filing date, type of case court events – will be displayed along with the 10 most recent items on the docket. A link can be selected to get access to the entire docket, he said.

“It handles all case types; you can pick the case type you want to see,” Cox said.

He noted in the case he selected, a document had been filed that morning at 6 a.m., and it had already been processed, placed in the case file, and was available for internet viewing by early afternoon.

Cases can also be searched by name, both personal and business, Cox said, and searches can be by county or statewide. The searches can be refined by adding birthdays or specific information about corporate names.

Cox and Doggett said the system will enable attorneys, when hired by a client, to go online and instantly see statewide every case connected to that client, civil or criminal.

Doggett also said access will follow the security “matrix” approved by the Supreme Court in its administrative order governing electronic access to court records. Sensitive information protected by court rules or state law will not be visible to the public or unauthorized parties.

“Your clerk is still the custodian of the information that’s in the case. It’s still your clerk’s data. It’s just a statewide ability to access it,” Doggett said.

This article originally appeared in the June 15, 2016 edition of The Florida Bar News

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