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Court amends Bar rules to give the chief justice emergency powers dealing with deadlines

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The Florida Bar Protecting Rights, Pursuing Justice, Promoting Professionalism sealThe Supreme Court has amended Bar rules to allow the chief justice to “suspend, extend, toll, or otherwise change time periods, deadlines, or standards imposed by the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, orders, or opinions” and take related actions during health and other emergencies.

The court on April 9 issued an opinion creating new subdivision (j) to Bar rule 1-12.1 (Amendment to Rules; Authority; Notice; Procedures; Comments).

The unanimous per curiam opinion noted that because of the COVID-19 crisis, Chief Justice Charles Canady has issued emergency administrative orders dealing with deadlines and other operations governed by Bar rules.

“The Court has determined that it should amend the Bar Rules to provide for a more streamlined response to the changing circumstances affecting The Florida Bar’s and Bar participants’ ability to comply with certain rule requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the opinion said. “The adoption of the new procedure also will provide a more expeditious procedure for responding to future public health crises and other emergency situations that could impact The Florida Bar and others who are governed by the procedural requirements of the Bar Rules.”

The new rule reads:

“(j) Action by the Chief Justice. Upon request of The Florida Bar, or sua sponte, in the event of a public health emergency or other emergency situation that requires mitigation of the effects of the emergency on The Florida Bar and other participants under the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, the chief justice may enter such order or orders as may be appropriate to: suspend, extend, toll, or otherwise change time periods, deadlines, or standards imposed by the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, orders, or opinions; suspend the application of or modify other requirements or limitations imposed by rules, orders, or opinions, including, without limitation, those governing the use of communication equipment and proceedings conducted by remote electronic means; and require or authorize temporary implementation of procedures and other measures, which may be inconsistent with applicable requirements, to address the emergency situation.”

The new rule is effective immediately and interested parties have until June 23 to file comments.

The court acted in In Re: Covid-19 Emergency Measures Relating to the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar and Amendment to Rule Regulating The Florida Bar 1-12.1Case No. SC20-392.

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