The Steering Committee on Families and Children in the Court has submitted to the Florida Supreme Court a petition to amend the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure. The committee proposes new rules to address coordination and case management of related family cases; nondisclosure of confidential information in related family cases; judicial and party access to and review of related family files; filing copies of orders in related family cases; and confidentiality of related family hearings. The court invites all interested persons to comment on the committee’s proposed amendments, which are reproduced in full below, as well as online at www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/proposed.shtml. An original and nine paper copies of all comments must be filed with the court on or before January 15, 2013, with a certificate of service verifying that a copy has been served on Judge Nikki Ann Clark, Committee Chair, First District Court of Appeal, 2000 Drayton Drive, Tallahassee 32399-0950 (E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org), as well as a separate request for oral argument if the person filing the comment wishes to participate in oral argument, which may be scheduled in this case. The court specifically invites comments from the Family Law Rules Committee on all the proposals and from the Florida Courts Technology Commission’s Subcommittee on Access to Court Records and the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee on the proposals addressing access and confidentiality issues. The committee chair has until February 5, 2013, to file a response to any comments filed with the court. Electronic copies of all comments also must be filed in accordance with the court’s administrative order In re Mandatory Submission of Electronic Copies of Documents, Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC04-84 (Sept. 13, 2004).
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA
IN RE: AMENDMENTS TO THE FLORIDA FAMILY LAW RULES OF PROCEDURE, CASE NO. SC12-2030
RULE 12.003. COORDINATION OF RELATED FAMILY CASES AND HEARINGS
(a) Assignment to One Judge.
(1) All related family cases must be handled before one judge unless impractical.
(2) If it is impractical for one judge to handle all related family cases, the judges assigned to hear the related cases involving the same family and/or children may confer for the purpose of case management and coordination of the cases. Notice and communication shall comply with Canon 3.B.(7) of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
(b) Joint Hearings or Trials.
(1) The court may order joint hearings or trials of any issues in related family cases.
(2) For joint or coordinated hearings, notice to all parties and to all attorneys of record shall be provided by the moving party, or other party as ordered by the court, regardless of whether or not the party providing notice is a party in every case number that will be called for hearing.
(c) Coordination of Cases.
(1) The court may order the coordination of related family cases and/or issue orders concerning proceedings to avoid duplication, unnecessary costs, and delays.
(2) Notice of coordination of proceedings must be provided to each self-represented party and each attorney of record in all related cases.
RULE 12.004. JUDICIAL ACCESS AND REVIEW OF RELATED FAMILY FILES
(a) In General. A judge hearing a family case may access and review the files of any related case either pending or closed, to aid in carrying out his or her adjudicative responsibilities. Authorized court staff and personnel may also access and review the file of any related case.
(b) Family Case Defined. For purposes of this rule, a related family case is another pending or closed case separate from the pending case, which involves the same family and/or children.
(c) Nondisclosure of Confidential Information. Judges or authorized court personnel shall not disclose confidential information and documents contained in related case files except in accordance with applicable state and federal confidentiality laws.
(d) Notice by Court Staff. Authorized court staff may advise the court about the existence of related legal proceedings, the legal issues involved, and administrative information about such cases.
RULE 12.006. FILING COPIES OF ORDERS IN RELATED FAMILY CASES
When appropriate, the court shall file copies of court orders in all other related family cases involving the same parties. All applicable case numbers should be placed on the order and a separate copy placed in each related family court file.
RULE 12.007. ACCESS AND REVIEW OF RELATED FAMILY FILES BY PARTIES
(a) In General. Access to and review of confidential related family files by parties shall not be granted without an order of court.
(b) Confidentiality of Address. When a petitioner for domestic violence injunction requests that his or her address be kept confidential pursuant to section 741.30, Florida Statutes, this information is exempt from the public records provisions of section 119.07(1), Florida Statutes and article I, section 24(a), Florida Constitution. Court personnel should work with clerk of court staff and the civil process personnel of the sheriff’s office to develop a method to ensure that the address remains confidential as provided by law.
(c) Disclosure Prohibited. Disclosure by parties of confidential information and documents contained in related case files, except in accordance with applicable state and federal confidentiality statutes, is prohibited.
RULE 12.271. CONFIDENTIALITY OF RELATED FAMILY HEARINGS
(a) Confidentiality of Coordinated or Joint Hearings. When related family cases are coordinated or joint hearings ordered, the hearings are subject to the applicable state and federal confidentiality statutes pertaining to each case as if heard separately.
(b) No Waiver. The confidentiality of a case or issue is not waived by coordination or a joint hearing.