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Pro Se E-Filing

As of June 21, 2014, Florida pro se litigants can e-file their court documents in all counties and circuits throughout the state. E-filing has been in place for attorneys for some time, and this move may level the playing field for pro se litigants. In the past, pro se litigants have struggled to meet the requirements of court filings. A few circuits have active pro se help desks that benefit consumers by making sure that their documents are complete and correct. However, in many other circuits pro se litigants' access to the legal system is effectively obstructed by clerks of court who reject pro se litigants documents for errors or missing forms.

In the past, pro se filings sometimes languished in legal limbo due to a deficiency. Frequently, pro se litigants experience immense frustration when dealing with the court system. Consumers are often met with a non-answer from a court clerk - "We are prohibited from giving legal advice". Fair enough, however, when the clerks select forms for pro se litigants by refusing to accept their documents for lack of a form, is that not also legal advice according to the Florida Bar UPL rules?

Improved Access to the Legal System

Any step forward in court access for consumers is a good thing. I only hope that the automated e-filing system doesn't create additional barriers. To learn more about e-filing for pro se litigants go to www.myflcourtaccess.com

Pro Se E-Filing Pointers:

  • Legal document preparers may train their customers about how to use the e-filing system. This cannot reasonably be construed as legal advice. 
  • Pro se litigants are not required to e-file. As a service, legal document preparers may choose to allow their customers to file from their office so that the LDP can assist. Or there may be situations where  the consumer does not have a computer or online access.
  • The system allows someone to file on behalf of another. We do not believe that this means that legal document preparers should file for their customers. 
  • Credit card surcharge vs convenience fee. We researched this question shortly after efiling became available. It is illegal in Florida to charge a surcharge for using a credit card. But, it is legal to charge a convenience fee. So what's the difference? A surcharge is an extra charge added for using a credit card - period. The charge is added for no reason in particular, just because they can. A convenience fee is when there is an alternate way to pay, and the payor is using a credit card for his own convenience. Since it is not mandatory for pro se litigants to e-file, filing online and using a credit card is a convenience. So the convenience fee is allowed. There is a 3% convenience fee added for credit card payments; and a $3.00 convenience fee added for debit cards.
  • System only accepts pdf files. As a practical matter, it is usually most convenient for pro se efilers to scan their documents as a pdf into their computer after signing and notarizing. 

If you have questions or comments about the E-Filing system, please post them here. 


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