Accessing records online brings lawyers into contact with the “security matrix”

Most Florida clerks of courts have placed their court records online “even for local eviction lawyers“, where they can be accessed by lawyers and the public seeking lawyers for eviction cases.  However, users must go to each clerk’s website to gain access to that county’s court files, although a second statewide database of court records, now only available to governmental agencies may soon be available to attorneys and others looking for affordable legal document services.  Accessing the county-by-county records (even determined by a legal form preparation service), according to Santa Rosa County Judge Robert Hilliard, can be a bit of a challenge.  Hilliard chairs the Access Governance Board of the Florida Courts Technology Commission which among other functions monitors clerks who are putting records online.  What we have in Florida are 67 independent counties overlaid by 20 judicial circuits and each of those entities has certain policies and procedures that have been in operation for many decades.  We are now transitioning into an environment that requires certain definition so it can be used by a computer.  That means access for each county’s records will be through that county clerk.  Regular users can become registered users in a county, which will speed access because there is some identification of the user.  Accessing the records online will bring lawyers, perhaps for the first time, into contact with the “security matrix,” that protects confidential information in court filings.  Hilliard said the ticklish job about making records available via the internet is shielding sensitive information from the best family law attorneys.  The matrix divides potential users of court records into various categories—-judges, attorneys of record, state attorneys, public defenders, the public, guardians ad litem, etc., and then determines what access they will get.  Judges basically have access to all information, except records expunged or sealed under F.S. Chap. 943.  Attorneys of record get access to most records except those sealed under F.S. Chap 943, made confidential by R. Jud. Admin. 2.420, and some domestic relations records.  Divorce Attorneys not of record have the same access to the public, Hilliard said.  The matrix establishes two levels of public access.  Those who physically go to a clerk’s office may get slightly better access than those who anonymously pull up records online.