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Florida Supreme Court Greenlights Online Small Claims Court Pilot Program
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The Florida Supreme Court has embraced the recommendation from the Florida Bar and approved a pilot program focused on online small claims courts. This innovative initiative aims to provide litigants with an alternative to physically appearing in courthouses, making the dispute resolution process more convenient and streamlined.

Chief Justice Carlos G. Muñiz’s administrative order, issued on July 18, sets the stage for judicial circuits in the state to explore the concept of online court proceedings for small claims. The order allows for the use of various technologies, such as online dispute resolution platforms or other suitable software, to facilitate the resolution of cases entirely or predominantly online.

The impetus for this development came from the Florida Bar’s COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Task Force, which was established under the leadership of former Florida Bar President Michael G. Tanner. Recognizing the challenges faced by litigants in small claims cases, the task force emphasized the difficulty of obtaining legal representation and the frustrations experienced by those navigating the process without legal assistance.


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Tanner highlighted the importance of ensuring transparency and accessibility within the justice system. He emphasized that when citizens perceive the system as opaque or inaccessible, it erodes their trust in the overall fairness of the process. Therefore, the adoption of an online court platform could foster public confidence by making the legal process more transparent, user-friendly, cost-effective, and expeditious.

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The task force’s May 2022 report specifically recommended an online court model for claims involving $1,000 or less. The goal is to offer litigants the option to resolve their disputes without physically attending court proceedings. However, the report also acknowledged some concerns about fully transitioning to online courts. There were apprehensions that this move might be seen as relegating smaller disputes and that litigants could potentially feel deprived of their right to a traditional day in court.

To address these concerns, the task force emphasized that participation in the online court program should be voluntary. Litigants who prefer traditional courtrooms should still have the option to pursue that route. Moreover, the task force recognized the potential technological barriers some individuals might face and suggested that the public be able to access online court services through their smartphones. Community programs offering digital access could also play a crucial role in bridging this digital divide, although it was acknowledged that such measures might not entirely resolve the accessibility challenges.

The recent five-page order from the Tallahassee court specified the process for implementing the pilot program. Judicial circuits in Florida must submit detailed project plans and keep the Florida Supreme Court updated through the state courts administrator no later than six months after launching their pilot projects. These updates should include information on the implementation progress and clear metrics to evaluate the usage and performance of the online court concept.

The task force conducted a comprehensive review of online court platforms from other countries and U.S. states to inform their recommendations. Some of the platforms explored include Utah’s online court and New York’s online mediation programs, along with technology demos from the University of Michigan Law School called Matterhorn and Tyler Technologies’ platform Modria. Matterhorn, in particular, garnered attention due to its successful implementation in over 150 courts across 20 states, effectively resolving civil and family cases, including small claims, traffic cases, warrants, and pleas. Its integration with the state’s existing e-filing portal system and user-friendly interface made it a preferred choice for potential statewide adoption.

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