Everything you need to know: Service by Email Rule of Judicial Admin Rule 2.516

So Email service becomes mandatory on September 1, 2012.  Here are the important points:

1)  E-mail service will be mandatory for attorneys practicing in the civil, probate, small claims, and family law divisions of the trial courts, as well as in all appellate cases, when the rule amendments take effect on September 1, 2012.

2)  Transmittal e-mail must contain the subject line “SERVICE OF COURT DOCUMENT” in all capital letters, followed by the case number of the relevant proceeding. The body of the e-mail must identify the court in which the proceeding is pending, the case number, the name of the initial party on each side, the title of each document served with that e-mail, and the sender’s name and telephone number. The e-mail and attachments together may not exceed 5 megabytes in size; e-mails that exceed the size requirement must be divided into separate e-mails (no one of which may exceed 5 megabytes) and labeled sequentially in the subject line.

3)  Under subdivision (b)(1) (Service by Electronic Mail (“e-mail”)), upon appearing in a proceeding a lawyer must designate a primary e-mail address, and may designate up to two secondary e-mail addresses, for receiving service. Thereafter, service on the lawyer must be made by e-mail.

4)  The rule does permit several limited exceptions to this requirement. A lawyer may file a motion to be excused from e-mail service, demonstrating that he or she has no e-mail account and lacks access to the Internet at the lawyer’s office.

5)  Individuals who are not represented by an attorney may designate an e-mail address for service if they wish; however, pro se litigants are not required to use e-mail service.

6)  Applications for witness subpoenas and documents served by formal notice or required to be served in the manner provided for service of formal notice are not required to comply with rule 2.516.

Below is a sample “Notice of Providing Email Addresses” for pleading and the Court’s full opinion:

[Caption]

PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that the following email addresses are to be used for mandatory electronic service pursuant to Florida’s Rule of Judicial Administration Rule 2.516:

[UP TO 3 EMAIL ADDRESSES]

[Certificate of Service]

Full opinion:

Supreme Court of Florida.
In re AMENDMENTS TO the FLORIDA RULES OF JUDICIAL ADMINISTRATION, The Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, The Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, The Florida Probate Rules, The Florida Rules of Traffic Court, The Florida Small Claims Rules, The Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure, The Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, and the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure—E-mail Service Rule.
No. SC10–2101.
June 21, 2012.

Opinion


CORRECTED OPINION
PER CURIAM.
This matter is before the Court for consideration of proposed amendments to the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration and conforming amendments to the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Florida Probate Rules, the Florida Rules of Traffic Court, the Florida Small Claims Rules, the Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure, the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, and the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure and Forms. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 2(a), Fla. Const.
The chair of The Florida Bar Rules of Judicial Administration Committee (the RJA Committee), together with the committee chairs for each body of court rules identified above, filed an out-of-cycle report proposing new Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516 (Service of Pleadings and Documents), which would implement mandatory e-mail service for all cases in Florida. The committees also propose amendments to conform existing court rules to new rule 2.516. We adopt the amendments as proposed.

BACKGROUND

In June 2009, each of The Florida Bar’s rules committees was asked to designate one of its members to serve on the Joint E-mail Service Committee (the Joint Committee), tasked to explore the possibility of a comprehensive proposal to implement e-mail service in Florida. In preparing its proposals, the Joint Committee determined that a single rule addressing e-mail service should be placed in the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration. Accordingly, the RJA Committee developed new Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516 (Service of Pleadings and Papers). All of the rules committees have endorsed and approved this rule in concept.1 The rules committees also have proposed various amendments to conform the other bodies of court rules to rule 2.516. The Florida Bar Board of Governors approved the entire package of proposals by a vote of 36 to 3.
After the joint report was submitted to the Court, the proposals were published for comment. The Court received several comments from members of the Bar, as well as from the Florida Public Defender Association, the Judicial Technology Committee of the Palm Beach County Bar Association, the Family Law Rules Committee, and the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar. The RJA Committee, on behalf of all the rules committees, filed a response to these comments.
While this case was pending before the Court, the rules committees filed a joint out-of-cycle report proposing various rule amendments to implement mandatory electronic filing procedures in Florida courts. See In re Amends. to Fla. Rules of Civ. Pro., Fla. Rules of Jud. Admin., Fla. Rules of Crim. Pro., Fla. Probate Rules, Fla. Small Claims Rules, Fla. Rules of Juv. Pro., Fla. Rules of App. Pro., & Fla. Family Law Rules of Pro.—Electronic Filing, No. SC11–399 (Fla. Petition filed Feb. 28, 2011) (In re Electronic Filing ). After the oral arguments in this case and in In re Electronic Filing, we determined that certain aspects of these cases warranted further examination. Accordingly, we directed the RJA Committee and the Florida Courts Technology Commission (FCTC) to convene a workgroup2 and submit a supplemental report addressing several specific areas of concern. See In re Electronic Filing, No. SC11–399 (Fla. order entered Dec. 6, 2011). As is relevant here, we directed the workgroup to address how the implementation plan (for the new electronic filing procedures) proposed in In re Electronic Filing would impact the electronic service requirements proposed here. The RJA Committee and the FCTC filed a supplemental report addressing this concern. There were no comments on the supplemental report.
*2 After considering the original joint report, the comments filed, the issues discussed at oral argument, and the information provided in the supplemental report, we adopt new Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516 as well as the conforming amendments to the rules of procedure, as set forth below.

AMENDMENTS
The central rule adopted in this case is new Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516 (Service of Pleadings and Papers). This rule was modeled after current Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.080 (Service of Pleadings and Papers) and includes many of the same provisions and requirements for service. However, new rule 2.516 provides that all documents required or permitted to be served on another party must be served by e-mail. Under subdivision (b)(1) (Service by Electronic Mail (“e-mail”)), upon appearing in a proceeding a lawyer must designate a primary e-mail address, and may designate up to two secondary e-mail addresses, for receiving service. Thereafter, service on the lawyer must be made by e-mail. The rule does permit several limited exceptions to this requirement. A lawyer may file a motion to be excused from e-mail service, demonstrating that he or she has no e-mail account and lacks access to the Internet at the lawyer’s office.3 Similarly, individuals who are not represented by an attorney may designate an e-mail address for service if they wish; however, pro se litigants are not required to use e-mail service. Additionally, applications for witness subpoenas and documents served by formal notice or required to be served in the manner provided for service of formal notice are not required to comply with rule 2.516.
Subdivision (b)(1) also includes provisions addressing the time and format for e-mail service. Service by e-mail is deemed complete when the e-mail is sent.4 Additionally, e-mail service is made by attaching a copy of the document to be served in PDF format to an e-mail. The e-mail must contain the subject line “SERVICE OF COURT DOCUMENT” in all capital letters, followed by the case number of the relevant proceeding. The body of the e-mail must identify the court in which the proceeding is pending, the case number, the name of the initial party on each side, the title of each document served with that e-mail, and the sender’s name and telephone number. The e-mail and attachments together may not exceed 5 megabytes in size; e-mails that exceed the size requirement must be divided into separate e-mails (no one of which may exceed 5 megabytes) and labeled sequentially in the subject line.
As noted, the other subdivisions in rule 2.516 closely track the language in rule 1.080, modified to reflect the move to e-mail service. Subdivision (c) (Service; Numerous Defendants) describes procedures for service when the parties are “unusually numerous”; subdivision (d) (Filing) requires that all original documents must be filed with the court either before service on the opposing party or immediately thereafter; and subdivision (e) (Filing Defined) states that documents are deemed “filed” when they are filed with the clerk of court. Subdivisions (g) (Service by Clerk) and (h) (Service of Orders) address service of notices or other such documents by the clerk, and service of orders or judgments entered by the court, respectively. These subdivisions authorize, but do not require, the clerks and the courts to utilize e-mail service if they are equipped to do so.
In addition to new rule 2.516, we also amend the rules of procedure to delete existing provisions in the rules describing service, and add new language referencing rule 2.516.

IMPLEMENTATION
As originally proposed in the joint report, rule 2.516 was intended to be both mandatory and uniform, such that e-mail service would be mandatory in all types of cases in Florida. The rules committees also urged the Court to make e-mail service mandatory as soon as practicable.
The Criminal Procedure Rules Committee (CPR Committee) and the Florida Public Defender Association (FPDA) have raised concerns about the move to mandatory e-mail service in criminal cases. The CPR Committee and the FPDA asserted that, until the Court adopts an electronic filing rule, lawyers in the offices of the state attorneys, public defenders, and regional counsel will be required to serve paper documents to the court and electronic copies of the same documents on opposing counsel. The commenters also maintained that the public defenders, state attorneys, and regional counsel have limited budgets which may not be able to support the costs required to immediately upgrade technology and train personnel in order to meet the new requirements.
In the supplemental report submitted to the Court, the workgroup (which included representatives from the both the CPR Committee and FPDA) further clarified this concern. The workgroup recommended that attorneys who practice in the criminal, traffic, and juvenile court systems should be permitted, but not required, to follow e-mail service procedures. It suggested that mandatory e-mail service for practitioners in the criminal, traffic, and juvenile divisions should be delayed until electronic filing is mandatory for this group. See Joint Supplemental Report at 15 (Mar. 6, 2012) (on file with the Court in Case Nos. SC10–2101 and SC11–399).
We accept the workgroup’s recommendation to delay mandatory e-mail service in the criminal, traffic, and juvenile divisions of the trial court until electronic filing is also mandatory in these divisions. Accordingly, the rule amendments that we adopt in this case will become effective September 1, 2012, at 12:01 a.m.; however, they will be implemented as set forth in this opinion.
First, e-mail service will be mandatory for attorneys practicing in the civil, probate, small claims, and family law divisions of the trial courts, as well as in all appellate cases, when the rule amendments take effect on September 1, 2012.
Second, when the rules take effect on September 1, attorneys practicing in the criminal, traffic, and juvenile divisions5 of the trial court may voluntarily choose to serve documents by e-mail under the new procedures, or they may continue to operate under the existing rules. E-mail service will be mandatory for attorneys practicing in these divisions on October 1, 2013, at 12:01 a.m. (the date on which electronic filing will be mandatory in these divisions). See In re Electronic Filing, No. SC11–399, slip op. at 22 (Fla. June 21, 2012).
Finally, we note that, pursuant to rule 2.516(b)(1), self-represented parties involved in any type of case in any Florida court, may, but are not required to, serve documents by e-mail. Attorneys excused from e-mail service are also not obligated to comply with the new e-mail service requirements.

CONCLUSION
Accordingly, we adopt new Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516, and amend the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration, the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Florida Probate Rules, the Florida Rules of Traffic Court, the Florida Small Claims Rules, the Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure, the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, and the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure as set forth in the appendix to this opinion. New language is indicated by underscoring; deletions are indicated by struck-through type. The committee notes are offered for explanation only and are not adopted as an official part of the rules.
We also amend the Family Law Forms as set forth in the appendix to this opinion, fully engrossed and ready for use on the effective date of the amendments. The forms can be accessed and downloaded from this Court’s website at http://www.flcourts.org/gen_public/family/forms_rules/index.shtml. By adopting the amended forms, we express no opinion as to their correctness or applicability. As set forth above, the amendments to the rules and forms shall become effective September 1, 2012, at 12:01 a.m.
It is so ordered.
CANADY, C.J, and PARIENTE, LEWIS, QUINCE, POLSTON, LABARGA, and PERRY, JJ., concur.

 

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5 thoughts on “Everything you need to know: Service by Email Rule of Judicial Admin Rule 2.516

  1. Pingback: Law Firms must follow new email filing rules by September 2012 – Florida Supreme Court | Western Digitech

    • Lucreita D. Becude

      Then why does it state that as long as this is not the INITIAL PLEADING the NCP can be served via two forms: ie mail and email?

  2. Julia

    Has there become an electronic filing option to submit petition filings with the courts as of yet? Also would a modification of child support petition be documents that can be sent via email to the NCP?

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