Florida Supreme Court Implements Electronic Filing and Other Rule Changes

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.

An Ode to First Monday

I would be remiss if I let today get by without noting that it’s the First Monday in October — which appellate geeks all know is the start of the term for the United States Supreme Court. Turns out one New Jersey resident is well aware of the significance of the day. Graham Blackman-Harris has been to nearly every First Monday for the past 20 years.

What Blackman-Harris told the Washington Post is true:

“Every American should see the Supreme Court in action,” he said. “Anyone going to the court will see we have a magnificent array of talent on that court.”

Every citizen should get thee to the Court at least once in a lifetime. It’s really awe inspiring to see argument in action.

The Court had an interesting first day including this curious order [pdf]:

10-11054 MURPHY, CHARLES M. V. KOLLAR-KOTELLY, JUDGE, USDC DC
Because the Court lacks a quorum, 28 U.S.C. §1, and since the qualified Justices are of the opinion that the case cannot be heard and determined at the next Term of the Court, the judgment is affirmed under 28 U.S.C. §2109, which provides that under these circumstances “the court shall enter its order affirming the judgment of the court from which the case was brought for review with the same effect as upon affirmance by an equally divided court.” The Chief Justice, Justice Scalia, Justice Kennedy, Justice Thomas, Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, and Justice Alito took no part in the consideration or decision of this petition.

It turns out that this is what happens when you sue Supreme Court justices personally — they recuse themselves and the litigant is guaranteed an affirmance. The Volokh Conspiracy commenters have a line on the backstory. Lyle Denniston has a good summary of today’s argument over at SCOTUSBLOG.

Finally, for a rundown on the cases the Court will be considering this Term, the New York Times’ article hits the highlights. However, I like Wired’s take even more, because it points out the intellectual property cases on deck, including:
Golan v. Holder, October 5, 2011, which will decide if Congress can recapture, on behalf of copyright owners, works that are in the public domain.
Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., December 7, 2011, which concerns the patentability of observations.
ASCAP v. United States, (date TBD) which will decide whether a download is a public performance under the Copyright Act.

Grab the popcorn, folks. It’s shaping up to be an interesting term.

“Final” Judgment While Appeal Pending is Void

On a petition for certiorari filed by a non-party challenging a post-judgment discovery order, the Second District Court of Appeal has provided us with some great language on what constitutes a void judgment. In Gibson v. Progress Bank of Florida, No. 2D10-4137 (Fla. 2d DCA Feb. 23, 2011)[.pdf], the court decided what should be a fairly obvious point — that a final judgment entered while an interlocutory appeal is pending is outside the jurisdiction of the trial court and therefore void. This proposition comes directly out of Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.130(f), which states:

In the absence of a stay, during the pendency of a review of a non-final order, the lower tribunal may proceed with all matters, including trial or final hearing; provided that the lower tribunal may not render a final order disposing of the cause pending such review.

(emphasis by Court).

A final summary judgment, all parties agreed, “constitutes a final order disposing of the cause.” The Court held, therefore, that the judgment was null and void, explaining:

A void judgment is “[a] judgment that has no legal force or effect, the invalidity of which may be asserted by any party whose rights are affected at any time and any place, whether directly or collaterally…. It is incapable of being confirmed, ratified, or enforced in any manner or to any degree.”

Applying Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.560, the court concluded that there can be no discovery in aid of execution of a void judgment. Moreover, applying the general discovery rules applicable to pending actions, the court held that discovery from the Petitioners under those rules was irrelevant prior to judgment. Quashing the discovery order, the court concluded “because the final judgment is void, the Petitioners would suffer irreparable harm if forced to disclose their personal financial information.”