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Parental leave continuance rule approved

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Florida Supreme CourtThe Florida Supreme Court has adopted a presumptive three-month parental leave rule for many court cases that would require judges to grant a lead attorney’s request for leave for the birth or adoption of a child, if certain conditions are met.

New Rule of Judicial Administration 2.570 will not apply to criminal, juvenile, and dependency cases, which will be subject to Rule of Judicial Administration 2.545(e) (Continuances) or Florida Rule of Juvenile Procedure 8.240(d). The new rule is effective January 1, 2020. The court acted December 19.

“As adopted, subdivision (a) of new rule 2.570 requires that absent a finding of one or more of the reasons listed in the rule, a court must grant a timely motion for continuance based on the parental leave of the movant’s lead attorney, due to the birth or adoption of a child, if the motion is made within a reasonable time after the later of the movant’s lead attorney learning of the basis of the continuance, or the setting of the proceeding(s) or the scheduling of the matter(s) for which a continuance is sought,” the court said.

Those making the motion must be the lead attorney for a party and the motion must be timely, give the scope and length of the continuance, say whether another party objects, and include any other relevant information.

“If the motion is challenged by another party that makes a prima facie demonstration of substantial prejudice, the burden shall shift to the movant to demonstrate that the prejudice to the requesting party caused by the denial of the motion exceeds the prejudice that would be caused to the objecting party if the requested continuance were granted,” the new rule says.

The judge can deny the motion upon finding another party would be prejudiced by the delay or “the requested continuance would unreasonably delay an emergency or time-sensitive proceeding or matter,” according to the rule. The judge “shall enter a written order setting forth [his or her] ruling on the motion and the specific grounds for the ruling.”

The new rule went through several modifications, and the court noted it changed the final draft it had received. The original proposal did not contain exemptions for criminal, juvenile, dependency, and involuntary commitment of sexually violent offenders cases, which have speedy trial or other time-sensitive deadlines.

Those were added after comments were received by the court.

The Bar Board of Governors endorsed that final submitted version by a 36-1 vote.

Nine different lawyers, including Bar President John Stewart, made presentations to the court last August 27. Stewart presented the Bar’s position in favor of a parental leave rule.

“The rule as proposed advances the Bar’s missions; one is promoting diversity and advancement in. . . our profession,” said Stewart, during his presentation. “It advances the Bar’s mission to encourage health and wellness and to encourage work/life integration so physically and mentally healthy lawyers better serve their clients. And importantly, as has been addressed, this rule advances the best interests in putting the public and clients first in ensuring they get the lawyers of their choice.”

Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justices Ricky Polston, Jorge Labarga, Alan Lawson, and Carlos Muñiz concurred in the per curiam opinion.

The court acted in In re: Amendments to The Florida Rules of Judicial Administration — Parental Leave, Case No. SC18-1554.

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