Photo credit by J. Albert Diaz / Harvey Ruvin, Clerk of Courts, Miami-Dade County
Miami-Dade state courts will join other courts around the country Monday to become paperless as the clerk’s office digitizes all family, small claims and civil court documents for online viewing.
Online operations also will be available on mobile phones and tablets, said Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts Harvey Ruvin. At first, the documents will be accessible by attorneys, but computer access will extend to the general public by summer. Only criminal documents will still be on paper while the court system upgrades its computer server in a process that could take a year or two, said Clerk of the Courts Harvey Ruvin. “This was a long time in coming,” Chief Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Bertila Soto said at the unveiling of the new civil system and a lawyer training session Tuesday. “We are the third-largest circuit court in the country, so this was not an easy task.”
E-filing already is mandatory in Florida. However, for most civil and all criminal cases, viewing of documents, pleadings and orders cannot be done online, only in person at the courthouse.
The federal court system started converting to e-filings in 1990. Ruvin said Miami-Dade Circuit Court was an early adopter when its traffic court system went paperless in the 1990s.
The traffic court system has been successful, leading to a 40 percent increase in cases with a simultaneous 15 percent decrease in staff. No file clerks were laid off, but some were transferred or retrained, he said.
Other courts in Florida and around the country have already plunged deep into the digital age. However, Miami-Dade took longer to convert its records because of its size. Ruvin and his staff have been working behind the scenes for months to start scanning and digitizing 4.3 million cases and 94.7 million dockets with 14.3 million parties. Some of the cases date back to 1956.
Ruvin said no layoffs will occur as a result of the electronic conversion to Odyssey system produced by Plano, Texas-based Tyler Technologies Inc.
In some circuits, lawyers using the electronic system pay for the new technology with a $20 user fee. Miami-Dade’s system will be free to users. Lawyers can sign up for the paperless filing system at www.Miami-Dade.Clerk.com
Asked by a lawyer in attendance is there will be a charge for printing documents, as in the Pacer federal court document system, Ruvin said that has not been determined but he is resisting a printing fee.
“We want to service people online rather than in line,” Ruvin said. “This way, they don’t have to drive here, find a parking spot and wait in line to get a document.”