The Florida state court e-filing portal is increasing the convenience fees associated with filing documents through the portal, effective tomorrow, and with very little notice. The Portal is not really fully functional when it comes to initiating appeals — they haven’t quite figured out how to accept the portion of the filing fee that goes to the District Courts of Appeal, and only some Circuits accept the portion of the fee that goes to the Circuit Court Clerk. But clients and attorneys alike should be aware of these new charges, in addition to the statutory fee amounts.

The announcement sent out Tuesday states:

Today, the Florida Courts E-Filing Authority voted to increase the convenience fee associated with filings. Effective July 1, 2016, the rates will increase to $5.00 per filing when paying with echeck and 3.5% when paying with a credit card. The increased fees were deemed necessary to cover expenses associated with the operational costs of payments and transactions. To implement this change, the portal will be unavailable on 6/30/2016 from 9PM until midnight eastern time zone.
For further information, please visit https://www.myflcourtaccess.com/ to review documents and other meeting information.

{ 0 comments }

The Third District recently confirmed that a trial court loses jurisdiction over the substance of a case once a plaintiff voluntarily dismisses under Rule 1.420(a)(1), and that with only one rare exception a Court cannot set aside such a dismissal. U.S. Bank N.A. v. Rivera, Case No. 3D15-1415 (Fla. 3d Dist. April
27, 2016) [.pdf].

The case has a complicated procedural history: The Bank initiated foreclosure in 2009, and served the defendants by publication, obtaining a default judgment. In 2011, the Bank sought to vacate and set aside that judgment, citing “irregularities in the actions taken by its former counsel,” and the Riveras, too, sought to relief from the judgment pursuant to Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.540. Id. at 2. In 2013, the trial court finally entered the Bank’s 1.540 motion to vacate the judgment, and shortly thereafter, the Bank voluntarily dismissed the foreclosure action. Id. at 3.

The Riveras, however, did not stop litigating. They moved to set aside the voluntary dismissal for fraud on the court, attempted to engage in discovery to uncover the fraud, and sought sanctions against the Bank for failing to comply with the discovery. The Bank eventually sought the instant writ of prohibition to stop the trial court from continuing to exercise jurisdiction over the dismissed case.

What is a Writ of Prohibition?

A writ of prohibition is not an appeal in the traditional sense. Rather, it is an action, on the original jurisdiction of the district court of appeal, “to prevent courts from acting when there is no jurisdiction to act.” Sutton v. State, 975 So. 2d 1073, 1076 (Fla. 2008); see also Fla. R. App. P. 9.030(b)(3). Here, seeking a writ of prohibition was the appropriate remedy, because the party contended that the trial court was continuing to act even though it lacked jurisdiction to do so.

Citing to the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Pino v. Bank of New York, 121 So. 3d 23 (Fla. 2013), the Court ruled that the Rivera’s attempts to secure a dismissal with prejudice were not authorized by Rule 1.540. Specifically, the Court explained that “a trial court has neither the authority under rule 1.540 nor the inherent authority to grant relief from a voluntary dismissal where fraud on the court is alleged but no affirmative relief has been granted to the dismissing plaintiff.” Id. at 4-5.

Interestingly, the appellate court stopped just shy of actually issuing the writ of prohibition. When initiating a writ of prohibition, the rules require that the petitioner name the judge or lower tribunal as a “formal party to the petition” in the body of the petition, but not add the judge’s name to the caption. Fla. R. App. P. 9.100(e). The opinion ruled in favor of the petitioner, but the court stated that it would “withhold issuance of this court’s writ confident that the court below will refrain from further action in this matter.” In other words, the Court did not want to embarrass the trial judge, but ordered him or her to stop taking action in the case.

{ 0 comments }

President’s Day Counts in Florida

by Dineen on February 15, 2016

in Time

He's the Father of our Country, but his birthday is not a holiday in Florida State Courts. Source: U.S. National Archives

He’s the Father of our Country,
but his birthday is not a holiday
in Florida State Courts.
Source: U.S. National Archives

Is the third Monday in February a court holiday? The Florida state courts do not observe all of the same legal holidays their Federal counterparts do, and today is one of those days. Three years ago I pointed out that President’s Day was not a Florida court holiday, citing case law. Since then, Florida has clarified its rules and expressly enumerated the dates considered court holidays. Neither President’s Day nor Washington’s Birthday is on that list.

Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure expressly defines “Legal Holiday” as “the day set aside by statute for observing New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans’ Day, Thanksgiving Day, or Christmas Day.” Federal Statutes, in turn, identify the day we now more often call President’s Day as “Washington’s Birthday, the third Monday in February.” 5 U.S.C. § 6103. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 6 mirrors that definition. Florida cleaned it all up by putting its rules on calculating time all in one place, Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.514.

But it’s still not a state holiday. And poor Mr. Lincoln, the 1968 Monday Holidays Act took away his celebration, but did not rename the new, regularized Monday holiday day “President’s Day” despite common modern parlance. Under Federal law, the holiday is officially Washington’s Birthday, Lincoln be damned.

Now, if you are toiling in state court, back to work.

{ 0 comments }