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
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.
- First time users, set up a free online account on www.myflcourtaccess.com with a user name and password, then verify it through your email.
- Remember, in Florida email addresses are public record, so choose an email address that you check regularly, but also one that you use only for personal business. Some filers set up an email address specifically for efiling.
- 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 e-filing 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.
- The system only accepts Mastercard for payment - not Visa credit or debit cards.
- A point of confusion for many pro se filers when filing pleadings for an existing case is that the box to enter the case number says "sequence number" not "case number". Enter the year in the box just to the left of the sequence number box, and in the sequence number box, only the numeric portion of the case number.
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