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Court sets oral arguments in Judicial Management Council’s Workgroup on Improved Resolution of Civil Cases recommendations

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'The Workgroup understands that such proposed change causes skepticism, hesitation, and fear; however, it is the Workgroup’s position that the proposed amendments will improve the speed of case resolution while affording all litigants due process of law'

Florida Supreme CourtThe Supreme Court has set December 8 oral arguments for an extensive rules petition filed by its Workgroup on Improved Resolution of Civil Cases.

“The proponent of any change and any interested person who submitted a comment in this matter is invited to participate in oral argument, provided a proper request for oral arguments is filed with this Court on or before Friday, October 28, 2022,” according to the October 18 order.

“The division of oral argument time will be decided at a later date,” the order states.

In a September 19 response to nearly 70 comments, the panel agreed with many requests for revisions, but declined to recommend phasing in the changes, or to eliminate proposed sanctions.

The panel warned that the proposal represents a “sea change” from an existing trial culture where case resolution is largely driven by lawyers and litigants.

“The Workgroup understands that such proposed change causes skepticism, hesitation, and fear; however, it is the Workgroup’s position that the proposed amendments will improve the speed of case resolution while affording all litigants due process of law,” the response states.

Filed January 10 with a 544-page report, the proposal recommends amendments to Rules of General Practice and Judicial Administration, Rules of Civil Procedure, Small Claims Rules, and Rules of Mediation.

At an October 20 meeting, Civil Procedure Rules Committee Chair Lance Curry said he was eager to learn how justices would divide the time.

The committee filed its request to participate in oral arguments on October 19.

“It’s our rule set that is largely being impacted by those changes, so I hope the court does allow us sufficient time,” Curry said.

Modeled after the federal system, the workgroup’s proposal would create a “differentiated case management” system that requires setting an inflexible trial date at the beginning of a case, and deadlines for filing motions and rendering orders.

The deadlines and other provisions would be enforced by sanctions that could include attorney costs and fees, and case dismissal.

In its response, the panel referred to general concerns that the proposal will add “too much stress and strain to the already limited resources of the trial courts,” and require “significantly more trial court judges and court staff….”

“Additional resources and education may be necessary,” the panel acknowledged, adding that it would recommend that the Supreme Court direct the Florida Courts Technology Commission to “determine if additional technological functionality would facilitate trial court compliance with proposed amendments.”

“The use of technology to automate compliance can obviate or significantly mitigate the need for additional judges and court staff,” the panel wrote.

The FCTC is already implementing changes to the Court Application Processing Systems, or CAPS, and Clerk Case Maintenance Systems, or CMS, to accommodate an earlier Supreme Court administrative order addressing case management, the response notes.

The Supreme Court should also direct the Trial Court Budget Commission to determine costs and funding sources “for needed technology resources that may be identified by the FCTC, as well as for staffing and other resource needs that may be identified by the trial courts for aspects of the requirements that may not be subject to automation,” the panel wrote.

In Re: Report and Recommendations of the Workgroup on Improved Resolution of Civil Cases, Case No. SC22-122.

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