Back in October, I pointed out that Columbus Day is not a holiday in Florida state courts. A pro se appellant has learned the hard way that neither was President’s Day. See Harold v. State, 110 So. 3d 451 (Fla. 2d DCA March 27, 2013). Luckily for the appellant, it is a criminal case and he has the opportunity to apply for a belated appeal pursuant to Fla. R. App. P. 9.141(c). But a civil litigant would be out of luck, so be sure to analyze those deadlines carefully!
The Florida state appellate courts handle thousands of pro se appeals annually. How do the new e-service rules affect service by and on litigants who are not represented by an attorney?
Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516(c) [.pdf] has an answer to that question, and it’s pretty straight forward. If the pro se litigant chooses to send and receive by e-mail, the pro se litigant need only serve an e-mail designation notice. That is, the party should serve a notice on the opposing attorney (or if the opponent is not represented, the litigant) stating which primary and up to two secondary e-mail addresses at which they want to receive service, and follow up by filing that notice with the court. From then on, the pro se litigant will receive documents in the case by e-mail, and will also be requires to send them by e-mail if the other side is represented by an attorney or is pro se but has sent a designation. If the pro se litigant would rather stick to fax, mail, or hand delivery, just don’t serve an e-mail designation. Any pro se litigant who has not served a designation must serve and be served as set out in Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.516(b)(2).
Bonus: Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.080 states that in civil trial matters, all service should be made in accordance with Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.516. So the answer to how do you serve a pro se litigant is the same in the civil trial context and in appeals.
Caution: This post only applies to service of court documents. What about filing? That will have to be the subject of a different blog post. Whatever you read here, be sure to check the rules and do your own investigation. This blog is not legal advice, and the rules are constantly changing.
The Florida Supreme Court, in a revised Order SC11-399 (Oct. 18, 2012) [.pdf], has adopted a host of rule changes at every court level in order to implement electronic filing and service. The centerpiece of the change to electronic filing are new Florida Rules of Judicial Administration Florida Rules of Judicial Administration 2.520 (Documents) and 2.525 (Electronic Filing). Together, these two rules govern the filing of any document that is a “court record.” Rule 2.520 is the “why,” defining electronic records, and Rule 2.525 is the “how-to”, explaining the nuts and bolts of how to file electronically. So be sure to read both very carefully.
To implement these new system-wide rules, the Court also adopted changes to the rules of civil, criminal, family, probate, small claims, and appellate procedure.
Electronic filing becomes mandatory in civil, probate, small claims, and family law divisions of the trial courts, as well as for appeals to the circuit courts in these categories of cases, on April 1, 2013, at 12:01 a.m. For criminal, traffic, and juvenile divisions of the trial courts, as well as for appeals to the circuit court in these categories of cases, the effective date is October 1, 2013 at 12:01 a.m.
The changes are generally technical, but wide-sweeping. The rules affected include Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure 9.020 (Definitions), 9.110 (Appeal Proceedings to Review Final Orders); 9.120 (Discretionary Proceedings to Review Decisions of District Courts of Appeal); 9.125 (Review of Trial Court Orders and Judgments Certified by the District Courts of Appeal as Requiring Immediate Resolution by the Supreme Court); 9.130 (Proceedings to Review Non-Final Orders and Specific Final Orders); 9.140 (Appeal Proceedings in Criminal Cases); RULE 9.141. (Review Proceedings in Collateral or Postconviction Criminal Cases); RULE 9.142. (Procedures for REview in Death Penalty Cases); RULE 9.145 (Appeal Proceedings in Juvenile Delinquency Cases); RULE 9.146. (Appeal Proceedings in Juvenile Dependency and Termination of Parental Rights Cases); RULE 9.160. (Discretionary Proceedings to Review Decisions of County Courts); 9.180 (Appeal Proceedings to Review Workers’ Compensation Cases); 9.200 (the Record); 9.210 (Briefs); 9.220 (Appendix); 9.360 (Joinder); 9.500 (Advisory Opinions to the Governor); 9.510 (advisory Opinions to Attorney General); 9.900 (forms).
I encourage every practicing attorney to read SC11-399 very carefully. The most unfortunate change, in my view, is that the Court renumbered the definition of Rendition, from 9.020(h) to 9.020(i). The new 9.020(h) could easily have been put at the end, but now practitioners must be aware to both cite to the correct new subdivision when citing the rule on rendition, and to research both the old and the new numbering system when conducting research. I don’t see why adding such confusion over an already high-confusion area of the rules was really necessary.