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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.

Dead End by Dineen Pashoukos Wasylik All Rights Reserved

Is it Appealable? July 2018 edition

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Is it appealable, or a dead end? Several district court decisions from this month answer that question in different ways.

Appealable or not?  The courts decide…

The immediate reaction to an adverse ruling is often “I want to appeal that!” But not all orders are immediately appealable, as several cases this month have shown. And sometimes, an order is immediately appealable even if the case continues for other reasons, and you can waive your rights to appeal if you don’t act immediately. The district courts of appeal have issued a number of decisions this month regarding appellate jurisdiction to review a trial court’s order, which usually comes down to the question “Is this a final order?” Below we’ve summarized just a few of the cases discussing finality and appealability the courts issued in July, grouping them by type of order. As always, if you have any questions regarding the finality or appealability of an order, contact us and we’d be glad to talk about your situation with you!

Orders on fees.

FCCI Commercial Insurance Co. v. Empire Indemnity Insurance Co., 2D17-1749 (Fla. 2d DCA July 13, 2018)[.pdf]

FCCI intervened in a pending case against its insureds after the trial court disqualified the attorney FCCI had retained on its insureds’ behalf and awarded attorneys’ fees to Empire based on that attorney’s misconduct. When FCCI appeared, the trial court imposed the award of those fees upon FCCI based on its finding that FCCI had directed the disqualified attorneys’ actions.  FCCI appealed that order.

On appeal, Empire argued the appellate court did not have jurisdiction over the appeal, presumably because there were proceedings still pending in the trial court.  The court disagreed, holding “Not only is the order awarding Empire attorney’s fees an executable judgment against FCCI concluding a portion of the litigation ancillary to Empire’s ongoing litigation against [FCCI’s insureds and other defendants], . . . but FCCI’s limited intervention solely for the purpose of addressing fees demonstrates that the conclusion of the attorney fees proceeding ended judicial labor as to FCCI,” citing Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.110(k)(review of partial final judgments) and a number of cases.

Yampol v. Turnberry Isle South Condominium Association, Inc., 3D17-2752 (Fla. 3d DCA July 5, 2018)[.pdf]

After dismissing a case in the trial court, both parties (Yampol and Turnberry) moved for attorney’s fees.  The trial court entered an order that denied Turnberry’s fees and granted Yampol entitlement to fees.  Upon a motion for reconsideration, the trial court changed its mind, granting Turnberry entitlement to fees and denying Yampol’s motion.  Yampol appealed.

Turnberry moved to dismiss the appeal, arguing that the order was not yet final because it found only entitlement, and not amount, as to its award of fees.  The appellate court determined “[t]he issue before us in this appeal is whether an order that grants one party’s entitlement to fees and denies the other party’s entitlement to fees ins an appealable final order.”

Ultimately, the court ruled the order was appealable because an “order denying a party’s claim for entitlement to attorney’s fees . . . is an appealable final order,” even if an order granting attorney’s fees as to entitlement but not to amount is not appealable.  The trial court ended all litigation as to Yampol’s fees in its second order so the order was final and appealable as to Yampol. This is a great example of how the same order can be final and appealable for one party but not another.

Orders to show cause.

Torres v. Lefler, 2D17-2741 (Fla. 2d DCA July 13, 2018)[.pdf]

The trial court ordered Mr. Torres to show cause within ten days why he should not be sanctioned for repeatedly filing frivolous lawsuits, failing which, sanctions would be imposed.  Mr. Torres filed a notice of appeal before the ten days was up.  The appellate court dismissed the appeal from that order, holding that the trial court merely reserved jurisdiction to impose sanctions and thus the order was not final or appealable.

Amended temporary orders while an appeal is pending.

Duryea v. Bono, 2D17-4314, 2D17-4422 (consolidated) (Fla. 2d DCA July 13, 2018)[.pdf]

In this family law appeal, the trial court rendered a Temporary Order for Timesharing on October 27, 2017.  Duryea filed a notice of appeal.  Then the trial court rendered an Amendment to the Temporary Order for Timesharing on November 2, 2017, substantively modifying the October 27, 2017, order.  Duryea filed another notice of appeal.

The appellate court affirmed the October 27, 2017, order.  However, it held that the November 2, 2017, order was a nullity because it was entered while the appeal from the prior order was pending and was substantive in nature.  Consequently, the court remanded with directions to vacate the November 2, 2017 order.

Orders granting partial summary judgment incorporating injunctive relief.

Woodfield Community Association, Inc. v. Ortiz, 2D18-341 (Fla. 2d DCA July 13, 2018)[.pdf]

The Ortizes sued their homeowner’s association.  In count 1, they sought a declaration that parking restrictions were void and unenforceable.  They moved for partial summary judgment, which the trial court granted.  The court declared prior fines void and enjoined the homeowner’s association from imposing further fines.  The association appealed.

The appellate court recognized that “Generally, orders that merely grant partial summary judgment, such as the one before us, are considered nonfinal, nonappealable orders.”  “However, Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.130(a)(3)(B) provides us jurisdiction to review the portion of the order enjoining the association from enforcing the recorded declaration.”  The appellate court dismissed all other portions of the association’s appeal that did “not pertain to injunctive relief,” without prejudice to raising those issues in a later final appeal.

Timeliness of Notice of Appeal.

Elmouki v. Department of Transportation, 1D18-0715 (Fla. 1st DCA July 9, 2018)[.pdf]

The Commercial Motor Vehicle Review Board issued a letter rejecting Elmouki’s challenge to a citation he received while operating a commercial motor vehicle.  The letter was dated January 18, 2018, but included a timestamp showing it was filed with the clerk of the Department of Transportation on January 17, 2018.  Elmouki filed his notice of appeal on Monday, February 19.

The appellate court held that the 30-day time period for Elmouki to file his notice of appeal ran from the date the letter was rendered, which was the date it was filed with the Department.  Consequently, the time for Elmouki to file his notice of appeal expired on Friday, February 16, and Elmouki’s February 19 notice was untimely.

The appellate court dismissed the appeal without prejudice to Elmouki petitioning the Review Board to vacate and reissue the letter so that he could appeal.

In rem vs. personal jurisdiction.

Patel v. Wilmington Savings Bank, FSB, 5D17-1900 (Fla. 5th DCA July 6, 2018)[.pdf]

The trial court denied the Patels’ motion to quash constructive service of process, ruling that it had in rem jurisdiction.  The Patels appealed, presumably pursuant to Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.130(a)(3)(C)(i), which authorizes an appeal from a non-final order that determines the jurisdiction of the person.

However, the trial court did not determine the jurisdiction of the person, it only ruled on jurisdiction in rem, or over the property at issue.  Consequently, the appellate court held that rule 9.130(a)(3)(C)(i) did not provide a non-final appeal from the trial court’s order and thus dismissed the appeal.

Mootness.

Mitchell v. Brogden, 1D16-5849 (Fla. 1st DCA July 16, 2018)[.pdf]

Mitchell appealed a stalking injunction that expired by its own terms while the appeal was pending.  “Nonetheless, [the court held,] we cannot dismiss the appeal as moot because ‘collateral legal consequences flowing from such an injunction outlast the injunction itself.'” (citation omitted).

Preservation by motion for rehearing.

Mahoney v. Mahoney, 1D17-2071 (Fla. 1st DCA July 9, 2018)[.pdf]

Former Husband waived arguments for appeal regarding lack of written findings on trial support and some arguments regarding the cut-off date for the identification of a retirement plan as a marital asset by failing to include those arguments in a trial court motion for rehearing.

Looking for more?

Check out our past blog posts on rendition, timing of your notice of appeal, and post-judgment tolling motions, and check out our Florida Bar Journal article on how trial court motions for rehearing affect preservation on appeal.  Or scroll through the blog for more!

Appeals 101: Why Rendition Matters

Rendition is a critical concept in Florida appeals, but not everyone understands its importance. The Fourth District this week in Guy v. Plaza Home Mortgage, Inc., No. 4D17-3335 (April 25, 2018) [.pdf] chided the Broward County Clerk’s foreclosure department for backdating final judgments when entering them on the Court docket. The decision offers a good reminder of the importance of rendition in appellate practice, and the reasons it matters.

Rendered Before Entered?

The case came to the court in an unusual procedural posture — a pro se appellant moved the court to correct the record because while the summary judgment hearing was held at 1:30 pm, the judgement’s electronic stamp “indicates that it was filed with the Broward County Clerk…at 8:35 a.m., nearly five hours hours earlier.”

The Broward Clerk explained that when the clerk’s office received the order from chambers, often a day or more after it was signed, its practice was to scan the item — which added a time and date stamp — then change the date but not the time to the date the order was signed by the Court. The result in this case is an order that appears to be rendered prior to being signed. And the result in general is that the real time docket on the date of signature does not show the order, and may not for several days. Then the order will all of a sudden “appear” that the item was added to the docket on the date the order was signed, whether or not the clerk’s office processed it on that day.

Why Rendition Matters

Let’s start with the definition of rendition: “An order is rendered when a signed, written order is filed with the clerk of the lower tribunal.” Fla. R. App. P. 9.020(i). Rendition can sometimes be tolled, such as when “there has been filed in the lower tribunal an authorized and timely motion for new trial, for rehearing” and a few other specific types of motions. When such a motion has been filed, the order is not considered rendered “until the filing of a signed, written order disposing of the last of such motions.” Id.

The problem, as the Fourth District explained, is that “[t]he time for appeal runs from the date of rendition, not the date the judgment is signed.” See Fla. R. App. P. 9.110(b). “By backdating the electronic filing stamp, the clerk changes the rendition date, possibly to the prejudice of an appellant.”

The Court pointed out that in this case, “appellant’s appellate rights were not affected,” and so the Court denied the motion to correct the record. The Court concluded “We nevertheless disapprove of the this practice as it is inconsistent with the appellate rules.”

How Backdating Rendition Affects Appellate Rights

Kudos to the Fourth District for calling out this potentially prejudicial practice. The time for appeal starts running from the date of rendition, and a backdated docket entry can unexpectedly shorten the time for appeal. We’ve seen a clerk wait 25 days to enter a final order on the docket, and then send the backdated rendered order by mail, leaving the attorney with no time to even discuss appeal with the client. The clerk’s docket is supposed even the playing field and allow all to know when an order is rendered and therefore appealable. Backdating leaves a party without notice and potentially deprives the party of the right to appeal.

The Takeaway on Rendition

When you’re not sure if an order has been rendered, it’s never a bad move to calendar your deadlines based on the date of signature, and regularly check the docket until you are sure of a rendition date. While a premature appeal can be subject to dismissal, if the order is rendered before the appellate court catches that an appeal was prematurely filed, “the premature notice of appeal shall be considered effective to vest jurisdiction in the court to review the final order.” See Fla. R. App. P. 9.110(l).

About Appeals 101

This post is part of our continuing Appeals 101 series. Click the link to find all of our posts on the basics of litigating an appeal.