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FL Sup. Ct. Rule Changes Affect All Florida Attorneys


The Florida Supreme Court recently issued an opinion which makes MAJOR changes to the way pleadings and papers are served.  You need to familiarize yourself and your staff with these changes ASAP since the rules will take effect as of September 1st for attorneys practicing in the civil, probate, small claims, and family law divisions of the trial courts, as well as in all appellate cases.  The provisions in the rules are mandatory.

The short version is that ALL pleadings and papers must be served via email. This opinion significantly changes the way pleadings are served in Florida state court cases. 

The opinion is 208 pages long, so this blog post is not intended to serve as an exhaustive list of all of the changes. However, I will start with two quick quotes from the opinion regarding implementation of these changes.
First, e-mail service will be mandatory for attorneys practicing in the civil, probate, small claims, and family law divisions of the trial courts, as well as in all appellate cases, when the rule amendments take effect on September 1, 2012.
Second, when the rules take effect on September 1, attorneys practicing in the criminal, traffic, and juvenile divisions [footnote omitted] of the trial court may voluntarily choose to serve documents by e-mail under the new procedures, or they may continue to operate under the existing rules. E-mail service will be mandatory for attorneys practicing in these divisions on October 1, 2013, at 12:01 a.m. (the date on which electronic filing will be mandatory in these divisions).
Those quotes probably got your attention. If so, read on.

This blog post summarizes some of the changes by quoting the significant amendment provisions, but you really need to read the opinion to understand the full impact of all of the changes.

The main change is that the Florida Supreme Court created a new Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516 - Service of Pleadings and Papers which will control service of pleadings and papers (after the initial pleading) in various judicial divisions. This rule was modeled after current Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.080 "Service of Pleadings and Papers" and includes many of the same provisions and requirements for service.

However, new rule 2.516 provides that all documents required or permitted to be served on another party must be served by e-mail. Under subdivision (b)(1) "Service by Electronic Mail 'e-mail'”, upon appearing in a proceeding a lawyer must designate a primary e-mail address, and may designate up to two secondary e-mail addresses, for receiving service. Thereafter, service on the lawyer must be made by e-mail. The rule does permit several limited exceptions to this requirement. A lawyer may file a motion to be excused from e-mail service, demonstrating that he or she has no e-mail account and lacks access to the Internet at the lawyer’s office.Similarly, individuals who are not represented by an attorney may designate an e-mail address for service if they wish; however, pro se litigants are not required to use e-mail service. Additionally, applications for witness subpoenas and documents served by formal notice or required to be served in the manner provided for service of formal notice are not required to comply with rule 2.516.

Subdivision (b)(1) also includes provisions addressing the time and format for e-mail service. Service by e-mail is deemed complete when the e-mail is sent. Additionally, e-mail service is made by attaching a copy of the document to be served in PDF format to an e-mail. The e-mail must contain the subject line “SERVICE OF COURT DOCUMENT” in all capital letters, followed by the case number of the relevant proceeding. The body of the e-mail must identify the court in which the proceeding is pending, the case number, the name of the initial party on each side, the title of each document served with that e-mail, and the sender’s name and telephone number. The e-mail and attachments together may not exceed 5 megabytes in size; e-mails that exceed the size requirement must be divided into separate e-mails (no one of which may exceed 5 megabytes) and labeled sequentially in the subject line.

As noted, the other subdivisions in rule 2.516 closely track the language in rule 1.080, modified to reflect the move to e-mail service. Subdivision (c) "Service; Numerous Defendants" describes procedures for service when the parties are “unusually numerous”; subdivision (d) "Filing" requires that all original documents must be filed with the court either before service on the opposing party or immediately thereafter; and subdivision (e) "Filing Defined" states that documents are deemed “filed” when they are filed with the clerk of court. Subdivisions (g) "Service by Clerk" and (h) "Service of Orders" address service of notices or other such documents by the clerk, and service of orders or judgments entered by the court, respectively. These subdivisions authorize, but do not require, the clerks and the courts to utilize e-mail service if they are equipped to do so. 

In addition to new rule 2.516, the Court also amended the rules of procedure to delete existing provisions in the rules describing service, and add new language referencing rule 2.516.

There’s also a change to Rule 2.515 of the Rules of Judicial Administration to provide that the signature blocks on pleadings must now also include a primary email address and an optional second email address.

These rules will be in effect before you know it and thus, if you have not already done so, its time to train staff on these new requirements, be prepared to revise pleading forms to reflect the new signature block and “certificate of service” requirements, implement new procedures for service in accordance with rules, and file notices of email addresses in all pending cases.

Good luck in meeting these new requirements. A copy of the Florida Supreme Court's decision can be found here => http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2012/sc10-2101.pdf. If you are interested in contacting me, you may do so at miamipandi@comcast.net or mov@chaloslaw.com.  

Comments

  1. international shipping
    just cant stop my self analyzing what released.. thankyou. useful important details allocated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks shalni12. You will want to note that the Supreme Court just issued a revised second opinion extending the date to September 1, 2012. The blog post has been amended accordingly. Regards,

      Delete

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