First District Court of Appeal Requests Comments on Stipulated Extensions

The First District Court of Appeal is considering joining the Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth districts in allowing parties to stipulate to enlargements of time in certain instances. From the First District:

The First District Court of Appeal, which is currently the only DCA that does not allow for stipulated enlargements.

Request for Comments On Consideration to Allow Stipulated Extensions of Time in Certain Cases

The First District Court of Appeal is considering adopting a court policy allowing attorneys to submit stipulated extensions of time for filing briefs in cases not requiring expedited review. To ensure full consideration of the impact of such a policy on the public and members of the Bar, the Chief Judge invites comments, which may be submitted electronically no later than August 31, 2017 to Jon S. Wheeler, Clerk of Court, at comments@1dca.org.

 

http://www.1dca.org/requestforcomments.html

Our vote is certainly yes! Let the judges focus on substantive motions rather than extension motions. No matter what your position, get your comments in before August 31st.

Voluntary Dismissal Leads to (almost) Writ of Prohibition

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.

Motions Postponing Rendition

Now that we no longer have to worry about abandoning an authorized motion for rehearing by filing a notice of appeal, the appellate courts understandably want to know if there is such a motion pending. The Fifth District recently issued a notice [.pdf] expressly asking parties to inform the court if an appeal should be held in abeyance. Specifically, the court asks that, along with the notice of appeal, the parties “immediately” inform the court of pending motions by filing a notice with the Court. Similarly, parties are requested to file a notice with the court again when the trial court rules on the pending motion, and include a copy of the lower tribunal’s signed, written order disposing of the motion.

To further facilitate this, the Court this week amended Administrative Order AO5D12-2 [.pdf] to require the clerk of the lower tribunal to indicate on its transmittal that a motion postponing rendition is pending.

This just makes sense, and would be good practice in all of the DCAs, even in the absence if a formal request from the Clerk. The easier parties make it for the Court to get to the merits, the better the system works for everyone. The full text of the notice reads:

Informing the Appellate Court of Pending Motions Postponing Rendition at time of Filing the Notice of Appeal

April 10, 2015

Effective January 1, 2015, Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.020(i)(3) has been amended to eliminate the abandonment of motions authorized pursuant to rule 9.020(l) by the filing of a notice of appeal. Rendition of a final order will be delayed by the filing or service of a timely and authorized motion and the filing of a notice of appeal will not result in the abandonment of such a motion but rather the appeal shall be held in abeyance until the filing of a signed, written order disposing of the motion.

Attorneys and parties filing a notice of appeal should immediately inform the court by the filing of a proper notice if a motion postponing rendition is pending so that the case may properly be held in abeyance. Likewise, the attorneys or parties in the case should inform the court by notice upon the lower tribunal disposition of such motions by filing a copy of the lower tribunal’s signed, written order disposing of the motion.

Lower court clerks, lower tribunal clerks, and agency clerks are now required to complete a new section of the electronic transmittal form submitted when efiling notices of appeal to this court which must indicate whether or not a motion postponing rendition is pending in the case below. Clerks must mark this section of the form or the notice of appeal may be rejected until such time as the transmittal form is properly completed.

/s/
____________________________
Joanne P. Simmons, Clerk of Court