New Florida Rule Requiring Email Service as of July 1, 2012/E-Filing on April 1, 2013

The Supreme Court has amended the rules of court today to require mandatory service of documents between attorneys (and pro se parties who opt in) by email. http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2012/sc10-2101.pdf You do not have to mail hard copies if you have served by email, but you can (but still have to email). They amended all rules (except criminal, juvenile, and traffic), including Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.080 (pages 12-15), to require it by referencing to new Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516. The rule takes effect almost immediately: July 1, 2012. (See below regarding the new rules on electronic filing, not mandatory in civil or appellate proceedings until April 1, 2013).

Relating to how service by email is to be accomplished, the Court explained (page 6):

1. Service by e-mail is deemed complete when the e-mail is sent.

2. Additionally, e-mail service is made by attaching a copy of the document to be served in PDF format to an e-mail.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Originals must be filed before or immediately after service by email. I assume (but don’t know) that mailing the original to an out of town court will suffice as “immediately”. Eventually the courts will all be going to e-filing anyway, as the First DCA has done.

7. Service by email is deemed service by mail, so you will always get the extra 5 days to respond.

8. If you know that a party did not receive the email, you have to immediately re-email it, or serve it by other means (by hand, by mail, or by fax and one of the other means, as now for faxing).

9. Upon motion or sua sponte, a court can modify the requirements, such as by allowing service on less than all counsel in cases with a lot of lawyers.

10. At the outset of an action, all attorneys must designate their email addresses for service, and up to two others (e.g., secretaries or alternate email address for the attorney). If an attorney does not so designate, you must use the address on file with the Florida Bar, which is usually on the website (www.flabar.org) when you do an attorney search by name or bar number. I assume we will be expected to do this in all pending actions as well.

11. Documents served by email can be electronically signed with a “s/” as is done already in the First DCA and in federal court via PACER, but you can also just sign and scan the original (which I prefer so there is no doubt). The original filed with the clerk still must be physically signed by the lawyer.

12. I suspect this will be tweaked over time. Pages 12-21 contain the amendments to the Rules of Civil Procedure, and many rules are amended (including the Summary Judgment rule pertaining to serving summary judgment evidence and the Proposals for Settlement rule), but not Rules 1.340 or 1.350. So I do not yet know if it applies to discovery which is not filed with the court, though I assume so.

13. Courts may, but do not have to, serve papers by email.

14. You still have to serve the initial pleading (complaint, petition, etc.) by normal means, including the initial document in appellate matters (see pages 78-80, amending Fla. R. App. P. 9.420).

To my read of the rule, emails for serving documents should look like this:

To: [all parties’ counsels’ email addresses]
From: [you]
Date: [self-explanatory]
Re: SERVICE OF COURT DOCUMENT Case No. 12-12345
————————
Dear counsel:

In Alpha v. Zeta, in the Circuit Court of the 11th Judicial Circuit in and for the State of Florida, Case No. 12-12345, attached is Plaintiff’s [document].

Name

305-373-0708
———————–
If you are attaching multiple pdfs over 5MB in size, the subject line should read like this:

Re: SERVICE OF COURT DOCUMENT Case No. 12-12345 (1 of 4)

Also today the Supreme Court ordered clerks to accept documents by e-filing by April 1, 2013, in civil and appellate courts.

The opinion is found here: http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2012/sc11-399.pdf

Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.080 (amended already as to service by email) was re-amended as well (page 27) to define filing of orders and what is a writing. I will give $5 to the first lawyer to get a published appellate opinion interpreting those obscure amendments.

The new Rules of Judicial Administration/amendments thereto are at pages 33-40.

The amended Rules of Appellate Procedure are at pages 53-85. I think the rule for e-filed briefs relates back to the new rule of judicial administration 2.516 to provide for e-filing of briefs in pdf format, so this may finally put the stake in the heart of us WordPerfect users having to fight with conversions to Word (hurrah!).

I hope this is helpful.

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