Second District eFiling Guidance

The Second District Court of Appeals this week started accepting voluntary electronic filing of appeals via the state eFiling portal. The Court has also issued several Administrative Orders to make the process go more smoothly. In AO 2013-2 [.pdf], the Court is requiring all electronic appendices to be fully text-searchable, and indexed or bookmarked. And really, this will make life so much easier for the judges and staff attorneys who are reading your brief and appendix. When it’s easier for them to find your record references, it will also be easier for them to understand your argument.

Filing through the ePortal also means that the former requirement to email a text copy of your brief to the Court has been terminated. See AO 2013-3 [.pdf]. What is not clear, however, is how this will affect the workflow for the judges at the Second DCA. That court is infamous for preparing summaries of briefs that pull together one party’s argument and line it up next to the other party’s. It will be interesting to hear how the judges adjust their process.

Bye Bye, Expanded Record Excerpts!

Just in time for the Florida Bar Annual Meeting, the Eleventh Circuit issued a new Administrative Order, General Order 39 [.pdf], significantly reducing the documents that a party must provide to the Court in paper form. As regular readers or 11th Circuit practitioners might recall, the “Expanded Record Excerpts” the Court had been requiring to go along with the electronic record was quite burdensome to clients and attorneys and generated an enormous amount of paper.

It’s kind of funny that the Court in its electronic records program requires the trial court to ensure that the electronic record be in text-searchable format, but the General Order posted on the Court’s website is not. Still, this is a big step forward for appellate practitioners in the Eleventh Circuit. This change no doubt stems from the lively conversation at February’s Eleventh Circuit Appellate Practice Institute [.pdf], so it’s great to hear that the Court was so responsive in balancing the needs of its judges with the practicalities faced by its advocates.

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.