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October 15, 2017
Court rejects amendments to expand the role of the RJA panel

An amendment to expand the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee’s role as the “rules coordinating committee” has been rejected by the Supreme Court, which praised the proposal but said it could slow down procedural rule amendments.

Quote The amendments to R. Jud. Admin. 2.140, which drew opposition from some other procedural rules committees, were the most controversial of the committee’s three-year-cycle rule amendments and most of the others were approved by the court as submitted or with some modifications.

Since 1984, the RJAC has been designated as the “rules coordinating committee” for the remaining procedural rule committees, which must submit their rule amendments to the RJAC, which looks for possible conflicts among the various procedural rule amendments and refers those matters to the appropriate committees.

The proposed rule amendment enhanced reporting requirements and the exchange of information between procedural rule committees and also charged the RJAC with preparing recommendations to deal with any conflicts or inconsistencies it found and making a formal response to other committee’s amendments when those amendments are considered by the Bar Board of Governors. (The board makes recommendations to the court on all proposed procedural rule amendments.)

The court liked the former proposals, but not the latter.

“We agree with the commenters that expanding the RJA Committee’s rule coordination responsibilities as proposed could result in undue delay in the rule-making process and unnecessarily overburden the RJA Committee,” the court said in its September 7 unanimous, per curiam opinion. “. . . . While this [conflict review process] may not be perfect, it allocates rule coordination responsibilities to the committee best suited to each task. The RJA Committee, with its diverse membership and liaison subcommittee, is best suited to review all proposed rule changes to identify changes that might impact other rules or pending proposals; and the several substantive rules committees are best equipped to work together to resolve identified issues with rules proposals.”

The court amended the rules to strengthen communication between the RJAC and other procedural rules committee and beefed up the requirement that RJAC committee members — some appointed by the chairs of other rules committees — have experience on other procedural rules committees or with court administration. It also said the RJAC could play a larger role without any new rules.

“While we decline to adopt the proposed amendments that would expand the RJA Committee’s rule coordination responsibilities, there is nothing to preclude the RJA Committee from including in its referral to an affected rules committee or providing in a comment submitted to a proposing committee, under rule 2.140(b)(2) or new rule 2.140(e)(2), any information, insights, or suggestions the RJA Committee believes might be helpful to those committees in considering a proposed rule change,” the court said. “In this way, the RJA Committee can take a more active role in resolving potential issues with rule proposals that will not result in undue delay or otherwise detrimentally affect the rule-making process.”

The court also observed, “We commend the RJA Committee for its willingness, as our ‘rules coordinating committee,’ to take on more responsibilities to ensure the quality of the rules of court. We also greatly appreciate that committee’s efforts to improve communication among the Bar’s rules committees and to suggest procedures designed to improve the rule coordination process.”

The court did amend the rule to enhance communications between the RJAC’s Liaison Subcommittee and other rules committees and streamline the handling of rule amendments. Other changes specify rules committees should use their “fast track procedures” when proposing amendments required by legislative enactments, allow committees to submit a “no action report” if they decide no changes are needed after the court refers an issue to them, and remove the pro hac vice appearance limitation for federally authorized state court appearances.

The court also required that the case style be included in the subject line when service is done by email. It also made several other minor and technical changes.

The amendments become effective January 1, and the court gave interested parties 60 days to comment on the amendments to Rule 2.140 that the court adopted on its own motion and which had not otherwise been published for comment.

The court acted in In Re: Amendments to the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration — 2017 Regular-Cycle Report, Case No. SC17-155.

[Revised: 11-21-2017]