Friday, June 22, 2012

E-Service and E-Filing to be mandatory in FL

In a pair of opinions, the Supreme Court of Florida formally adopted proposed amendments to the Florida rules of court to implement mandatory electronic filing procedures for all documents filed in Florida’s courts. The proposed amendments represent a significant and important step toward the goal of a fully electronic court system by transitioning from permissive to mandatory electronic filing or e-filing. Also in furtherance of this goal, in a separate, related case the justices adopted amendments to the rules of court to require e-mail service of pleadings and documents between parties. All 67 county clerks of court have been directed to be prepared to accept e-filings through the statewide e-portal in the civil divisions by July 1, 2012-- but a subsequent filing by the E-Filing Authority indicates several clerks are still experiencing difficulties that would prevent them from accepting electronic filings on that date. Any clerk may submit a request with the Florida Supreme Court to delay the effective date of these rules in any division or court. If such a request is granted, an Administrative Order will be issued and published. However, mandatory e-service under Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516 will begin July 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. 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. Given the delay from oral argument last year to passage of these e-rules, it is possible electronic discovery rule amendments in Florida argued earlier this year may be adopted later than expected. That would be consistent with comments made regarding the need for educating the bench and bar on the proposals to include ESI in existing civil rules. See full opinions here - and UPDATE: 6/26/12 - Florida Supreme Court sua sponte amends its opinion to change the mandatory date for e-mail service in the civil, probate, small claims, and family law divisions of the trial courts, as well as in all appellate cases, from July 1, 2012, to September 1, 2012 - SECOND CORRECTED OPINION: 6/28/12 -