Woody Pollack & Dineen Wasylik wearing bike helmets in front of the Boston skyline

Podcasts & PCAs

Woody Pollack & Dineen Wasylik wearing bike helmets in front of the Boston skyline

Woody & Dineen on a bicycle tour of Boston in May, 2019.
It was only 10 miles.
Photo courtesy of Woody Pollack and used with permission.

I am proud to be the featured guest on this week’s Issues on Appeal podcast, where I discussed my approach to analyzing a per curiam affirmance for current and new clients. The idea for this episode of the podcast came initially from one of our Appeals 101 blog posts, Florida Appeals 101: What is a PCA? That blog post turned into an in-house procedure for analyzing these cases — including giving people we did not represent on direct appeal a “second look” at the appellate court’s decision. And that turned into a chat with friend (and podcast founder) Duane Daiker, which eventually turned into this recorded discussion with Duane. Check it out!

One neat thing about this podcast episode is that Duane added a non-appellate conversation with my dear friend from the IP world, Woody Pollack, and the lessons he learned from not finishing an Ironman triathlon (even though he has previously finished a race). I think Woody’s story is a great match for this discussion of analyzing a PCA: There’s some disappointment involved, but also important lessons about how to deal with disappointment and move forward. Plus, we’re both nerds.

Finally, if you missed my earlier appearance on Issues on Appeal, where I talk about using social media for marketing without getting into legal trouble, check out episode 7. I am particularly honored to be the first repeat guest on the podcast!

Hurricane Dorian approaching Florida

How Does a Hurricane Affect Court Deadlines? (Dorian Edition)

Hurricane Dorian approaching Florida

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) image of Hurricane Dorian taken Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, at 17:00 UTC.

Even though we currently have sunny skies, many courts in Florida are closed today due to the threat of Hurricane Dorian (Specifically, the Second and Third Districts are closed today, and the Fourth and Fifth Districts are closed today and tomorrow, with the First and Florida Supreme Court still open as of this writing. How does that affect court deadlines? The short answer: In Florida state courts, you won’t know until the storm is over, so don’t count on a deadline moving. And in Federal Court, the courthouse being closed does not mean you can’t file, so your best bet is to meet any deadline today. Here’s the rules-geek long answer:

Deadlines in Florida State Courts

An emergency closure does not count as a “Court Holiday” under Florida Rules of Judicial Administration Rule 2.514(a)(6)(B) — the Courts are not calling it a “holiday,” and doing so probably has personnel implications that Court administration doesn’t want to deal with. However, the Florida Supreme Court generally issues administrative orders extending deadlines in the affected counties. Right now, the Florida Supreme Court’s emergency page states:

After a storm, orders will be issued by the Chief Justice retroactively extending deadlines in storm-damaged areas. Attorneys and others who missed legal deadlines or hearing dates in areas hard-hit by a hurricane will be protected by these orders, which will be issued once the courts in these areas reopen. They will be posted on our Administrative Orders page when issued.

(This from the Florida Supreme Court Emergency Page as of noon on September 3, 2019). As of this writing, there are no such orders in place, since the threat is not yet over. Check the Court’s administrative orders emergency page for updates. But also, we have not actually been hit so far, so I would be concerned that the Court is not going to ultimately extend deadlines for all. Even with Courts closed, meet all deadlines today, or timely seek extensions. The Florida appellate courts, in particular, are generous with timely-requested enlargements, so don’t hesitate to ask the Court for them.

But what about deadlines that are not normally allowed to be extended? Rule 1.090 states that, even for good cause, a Court:

may not extend the time for making a motion for new trial, for rehearing, or
to alter or amend a judgment; making a motion for relief from a judgment under
rule 1.540(b); taking an appeal or filing a petition for certiorari; or making a
motion for a directed verdict.

We did this analysis for Hurricane Matthew, so check out our prior post on that one.

Deadlines in Federal Courts

The Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure state that when calculating deadlines computed as days:

if the period would end on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the period continues to run until the same time on the next day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday.

Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 26(a)(2)(C). The Federal rules have an additional helpful provision expressly addressing “Inaccessibility” of the Clerk’s Office:

(3) Inaccessibility of the Clerk’s Office. Unless the court orders otherwise, if the clerk’s
office is inaccessible:
(A) on the last day for filing under Rule 26(a)(1), then the time for filing is extended
to the first accessible day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday; or

Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 26(a)(3). But remember, a closure of the physical building does not make the clerk’s office inaccessible. For example, the Middle District of Florida website currently states:

UPDATE: 7:45 p.m. | Monday, September 2, 2019

On Tuesday, September 3, 2019, the Jacksonville, Ocala, and Orlando divisions are closed, and the Fort Myers and Tampa divisions are open.

On Wednesday, September 4, 2019, the Jacksonville division is closed, and the Fort Myers, Ocala, Orlando, and Tampa divisions are open.

CM/ECF remains available. The website will be updated if additional closures are required.

And the Eleventh Circuit does not even mention the hurricane on its website as of this writing, but since all filings are supposed to be made through ECF or through Atlanta, any “inaccessibility” argument won’t get very far.

Requesting Extensions After the Fact

Remember that if you miss a deadline in most courts, you have a higher burden to prove entitlement to the extension. Both state and federal courts are going to require a showing of good cause and excusable neglect. So meet your filing deadlines today, or at the very least get extension request on file before the deadline passes.

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Weird, Wild Stuff: Nine Proposed Appellate Rule Changes You May Want to Weigh In On

The Appellate Court Rules Committee published its Notice of its proposed rule amendments in this month’s The Florida Bar News.  They are proposing a number of changes to no less than 32 different appellate rules.  You can read all of them here.

Here’s what we think about some of these proposals…

We had gut reactions to a few of these, and thought we’d share some of the more interesting ones with you.

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If you have any comments on these proposed rule amendments, get them in before August 1, 2019!

  • Amending rule 9.045 to require all appellate documents to be filed in “Arial 14-point or Bookman Old Style 14-point font.”
    • Bookman?  Where did Bookman come from?  Our stuck-in-our-ways reaction is “what’s wrong with Times New Roman?”  Well, a quick Google search shows that many consider Bookman a superior font.  But those same searches name a number of fonts that are an improvement upon Times New Roman (like Garamond, this author’s personal fave outside of the courts).  And also, other studies suggest there’s a difference in readability between serif and non-serif fonts.  So why keep both a serif and a non-serif font rather than just mandate the use of the single best font?
    • We’re curious to see what the ACRC was looking at when they settled on Bookman–and that will be a super-nerdy conversation that we won’t bore you with here, but feel free to give us a call if you’re curious!
  • Amending rule 9.145 to eliminate the requirement that transcripts in juvenile delinquency cases use only a child’s initials, to avoid confusion.
    • Will transcripts in the record be filed under seal, or redacted in some way, to maintain protection for the child?  Is there a corresponding amendment to Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.420 (minimizing the filing of sensitive information) to ensure this privacy?
  • Amending rule 9.170 to clarify that orders denying entitlement to attorneys’ fees and costs are appealable in probate and guardianship cases.
    • Before, the rule suggested only orders awarding fees were appealable.  This is obviously an important clarification if you practice these types of appeals.
  • Amending rule 9.225 to allow argument in a notice of supplemental authority.
    • Whoa.  We see this being used as a tool for parties to effectively file supplemental briefs.  We can also see this being abused for that purpose unless the rule is also amended to limit what can be filed as supplemental authority.  Many judges have personally indicated they do not like notices of supplemental authority that identify old cases, but the rule does not say that explicitly.  A party could potentially go find any relevant case and use it to rectify errors or omissions in its briefs.  Perhaps the new amendment should be accompanied by an amendment limiting notices of supplemental authority to authorities that are created after the date of the last brief of the party that files it.
  • Amending rule 9.300 to do away with the required separate request to toll time in the Florida Supreme Court.
    • Good riddance.  This requirement had no useful purpose.  It only served to increase attorney labor (and thus client costs), reduce judicial economy, and serve as a procedural trap for the unwary.
  • Creates Rule 9.332, providing a procedure for en banc proceedings in circuit court.
    • I’ve not ever had a matter that required such proceedings, but this amendment having been brought to our attention, it seems a really good idea.  We cannot see how the current rule 9.331 could ever be properly applied in a circuit court.  Our thoughts are with the unfortunate souls that have had to figure out how to use rule 9.331 in the circuit court to-date.
  • Amending rule 9.370 to create word limitations (instead of page limitations) on briefs.
    • This follows the federal practice.  We will take word limits over page limits in a heartbeat.
  • Amending rule 9.440 to create limited appearances for appellate proceedings.
    • This may be in response to the Fifth District’s Administrative Order AO5D15-01, Re: Continuances of Oral Argument.  Therein, the Fifth District effectively states that every attorney that appears on a brief, and every attorney in the firm of an attorney that appears on a brief, can be held responsible to appear for oral argument.  If you haven’t read that order and you ever appear on cases in the Fifth District, well, just go read the order.
  • Amending Rule 9.800 to further permit citation to online resources and to eliminate required citation to Florida Law Weekly.
    • Honestly, most Florida appellate courts have been more than forgiving about missing FLW citations for many years now–a logical shift and perhaps tacit recognition that there’s no longer a reason for an FLW cite.  Judicial opinions can be accessed online from any number of free sources, and FLW is (a) a cost-based service (b) not available to everyone, and (c) not the most elegant of interfaces to use (online or in print).  This is a worthwhile amendment that reflects the changing times.

More amendments?  YES!

These proposed amendments follow the extensive amendments that went into effect on January 1, 2019, which we’ve covered extensively.  See, e.g., Almost Every Florida Appellate Rule Changes on New Years’ Day 2019Now You Can Appeal Two More Types of Nonfinal Orders.  If you haven’t checked those amendments out, make sure you do!

What do you think?  Let us know, and let the ACRC know!

So what do you think of these proposed amendments?  Agree/Disagree?  Are there any others you would want us to address?  Let us know.  And even more importantly, send any comments to Thomas D. Hall, Incoming Chair of the Appellate Court Rules Committee, at thall@bishopmills.com, and to Bar attorney liaison, Hether Telfer, at htelfer@floridabar.org.