From Florida Bar News: Authority removes nonlawyer office manager e-filing accounts

The Florida Bar News – Click Here to Read Full Article
All lawyer filings will now have to be done through an account created by a Florida Bar member

By Gary Blankenship
Senior Editor 

Nonlawyer law firm administrators will no longer be able to have electronic filing accounts through the Florida court system’s statewide portal, and lawyers who register for more than one account will get some extra scrutiny.

The Florida Courts E-Filing Authority, which manages the statewide portal that handles electronic filing for the trial courts, got a security update at its April 12 meeting. The board also got an update on portal usage and finances.

Portal manager Carolyn Weber said that recently accounts for office managers who are not Bar members were removed from the system. The accounts had been intended to help firm administrators manage cases, keep track of filing and other fees paid through the portal, and related matters. In some cases, firm attorneys used those accounts to do electronic filing instead of establishing accounts under their own names.

A scammer recently took advantage of that loophole to create an account under an actual lawyer’s name, file papers in a foreclosure case, and then make off with $130,000 left over after the foreclosure sale. (Portal officials noted that it would have been just as easy to fake the credential of the lawyer using the lawyer’s attorney number under the old paper filing system because documents were dropped off at clerks’ offices.)

Weber said all lawyer filings will now have to be done through an account created by a Florida Bar member. (Procedures still exist for pro se litigants and others to use the e-filing system.)

Sometimes, lawyers create more than one account for e-filing, she added. They still will be able to do that, but portal employees will do some checking when the additional accounts are set up to ensure that it is the same person creating the accounts, not an impostor/scammer.

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