GUIDE TO SERVICE BY EMAIL IN FLORIDA COURTS
By Greg Medalie
The Florida Supreme Court recently issued a ruling (2012 SC10-2101) that made major changes to the Florida rules of court. The changes become effective September 1, 2012, with the exception of the Criminal, Traffic and Juvenile divisions, for which the effective date is October 1, 2013.
Generally, when a party files a pleading or other document in a court proceeding, he or she must serve copies of the document on the other parties. For certain types of documents, the copies must be served by formal notice or by service of process. More often, copies of documents filed are served by non-formal notice. Currently, such notice is made by mailing or delivering a copy of the document filed, and service by email is not permissible. (See, e.g., Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.080(b) and Fla. Prob. R. 5.041(b).) Once the change take effect, non-formal notice must be made by email, and mailing or delivering copies of the documents will no longer be permissible (subject to certain exceptions). See Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.516(b).
This article provides an overview of the changes and their implications for attorneys. Some details have been simplified or omitted. The primary materials are available through this link.
The primary change effected by the court ruling is the enactment of a new rule, Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.516 – Service of Pleadings and Documents. This rule requires non-formal notice to be made by email (subject to certain exceptions discussed below). The ruling contains many other changes to the rules. The other changes generally are required or helpful for the implementation of rule 2.516.
For example, the current versions of Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.080, Fla. Prob. R. 5.041 and Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.080 are all titled “Service of Pleadings and Papers” and all include descriptions of how non-formal notice is to be made for proceedings in these divisions (i.e., Civil Court, Probate Court and Family Court). Under 2012 SC10-2101, these rules are being revised to state that non-formal service must be made “as set forth in Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.516,” subject to various division-specific exceptions. See, e.g., the revised versions of Fla. Prob. R. 5.041 and Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.080.
Another change effected by the Florida Supreme Court ruling is an addition to See Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.515. The revised version requires attorneys to include their email address(es) on all documents filed. Also, the ruling revises Fla. Prob. R. 5.041 to state that “interested persons” in probate proceedings (such as beneficiaries and creditors) shall be deemed parties for the purpose of applying Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.516. This change is necessary to make clear that 2.516 applies to such persons, despite the fact it refers only to notice of parties.