By Sean Lebowitz
Mandatory service of court pleadings by e-mail begins on September 1, 2012. The Florida Supreme Court, in opinion SC10-2101, issued a holding requiring e-mail service of pleadings for all attorneys practicing in the civil, probate, small claims and family law divisions of the trial courts as well as in all district court of appeals. Mandatory service by e-mail is Florida’s initial step to a state-wide internet portal, similar to PACER in federal courts, which is currently scheduled to commence on April 1, 2013.
Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516 (Service of Pleadings and Papers) is the principal newly adopted rule. The Rule replaces Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.080, which currently governs service of pleadings. The key provisions of Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516 are as follows: 1) Attorneys are required to state their e-mail address on every pleading filed with the Court; 2) All documents required or permitted to be served on another party must be served via e-mail and need not be served via US Mail; 3) Service of a document via e-mail is made by attaching the document in PDF format to the e-mail; 4) The e-mail subject line must begin with the words “SERVICE OF COURT DOCUMENT” followed by the relevant case number; 5) The body of the e-mail must contain the name of the court, case number, name of the initial party on each side, the title of the document being served via e-mail and the sender’s contact information; and 6) The original documents must still be filed with the Court.
In addition, although service by e-mail is instantaneous, the rule still provides an additional five (5) days for transmittal pursuant to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.090(e), unless another means of service is utilized with differing time limits (for instance, facsimile).
The e-mail and attachment may not exceed five (5) megabytes in size, and if the enclosures are larger, the e-mail may be sent in multiple e-mails. The document being served may be electronically signed by the “/s/” format, but the document filed with the Court must be appropriately signed. Permitting a document to be signed by the “/s/” format should alleviate the strict size requirements since the pleading does not need to be scanned (and can be saved as a PDF using Word or Word Perfect).
The mandatory service by e-mail rules have exceptions and contain other nuisances. The author encourages all attorneys to read the new rule and opinion (which can be found here: www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2012/sc10-2101.pdf).