Where have all the paper court files gone?

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  • | 12:00 p.m. February 27, 2012
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The answer, my friend, is that the physical paper court file we knew and loved prior to 1/1/2012 no longer exists. The Duval County Clerk is not allowing access to paper court files. The Clerk didn’t order 2012 File Jackets and is not updating the paper files. Therefore, the official Court File now lives on as a collection of digitized computer images accessible through the Showcase system at www.duvalclerk.com.

Any documents filed after 1/1/2012 are scanned to the computer. Original documents filed are then stored in piles by date filed and by court division. If the original is not scanned correctly, and you did not retain a copy, you can go back through the pile for each Division, and each day to find the original and request that the document be rescanned.

The Clerk states now they will retain originals for approximately one year, but this may be changed. Important documents such as wills, original mortgage notes, and deposition transcripts, are stored in envelopes in different locations from the daily piles, and the Clerk will assist you in retrieving these.

The advantages of the new system are that the electronic file is available to everyone at any time, and is accessible to more than one person at a time. Steve Johnroe is heading up the transition and is available for questions at [email protected].

Some disadvantages are that if the Clerk scans only five of the six pages of your document, then the document you filed is incomplete until you correct the error, by requesting the Court to rescan the original. If you don’t have a copy, then you will have to find it in the stacks.

Therefore, it is important for attorneys to (a) check the online version of filed documents and (b) maintain an organized paper copy of all filed documents for their cases. The Rules of Civil Procedure still provide for service of paper copies of all documents, although this may be changed. Other problems are that the Clerk may not accurately type in the complete title of your document, or index the scanned document in the correct electronic court file.

Further, your document may be scanned in parts, or on different dates than the filed date. There may be several “Notices” or “Responses” filed in a case. If the title is incorrect, the attorney may request the Clerk to change the title. There can also be a delay of several days between dropping off a document and its scan.

Most Clerk employees in Room 103 have a scanner and can scan in documents immediately upon request. There is a data entry room by the Mezzanine Copy Center and a bulk scanner for larger documents in Room 101.

Of course, at hearings, attorneys and judges are going to have to adjust to not having a paper file containing every document. Consequently, attorneys should prepare extra paper copies of relevant documents for judges to review. Otherwise, the parties may have to wait for the judge to find the document on their computer and print it. Some judges have difficulty reading voluminous documents from their computer screen or locating documents. Judges have complained about system unavailability.

The Clerk’s IT department indicates antiquated machines and software from the City of Jacksonville and third party Internet issues are causing these problems and not the Clerk’s new software, and these problems should be resolved by the new technology at the new Courthouse. The City for security reasons also requires some activity every hour or users may be logged out.

Attorneys may now need a tablet computer or laptop with wireless connectivity to review documents referenced at hearings. Attorneys may be able to copy the electronic court files to their computer in the future. Additionally, upon obtaining an order, attorneys may request the Clerk to immediately scan it to save time in obtaining writs.

In time, attorneys can file their own electronic documents, and input the title and number of pages. Currently, documents can only be electronically filed by attorneys in Duval County probate and guardianship cases. The Clerk anticipates that attorneys will be able to file online documents for Duval Family cases by mid-February and will be able to file online documents in Duval Civil cases by the end of March. Attorneys may still file original paper documents, but required electronic filing is anticipated in the future.

Training seminars are provided by the Clerk from 8-10 a.m. every Monday and 3-5 p.m. every Thursday in the Clerk’s training room, room 101 (next to the Wedding Arbor). Further information is at http://www.duvalclerk.com/bar.



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