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The Bar Bulletin
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Dec. 2, 202105:10 AM EST

From the Bench: Civil case management: Mandates from the courts

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New procedures are in place for certain cases filed in the 4th Circuit.

By Circuit Judge Waddell A. Wallace III • Civil Division administrative judge

There have been major new developments in the manner that Florida trial courts manage civil cases. The  Supreme Court of Florida issued an administrative order in April outlining a process requiring active case management by Florida trial courts.

That court identified three types of cases: Complex, streamlined and general, with each having different requirements and deadlines.

Complex cases will continue to be managed pursuant to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.201 and are not subject to the new requirements. 

Following the Supreme Court’s lead, 4th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Mark Mahon, in consultation with the judges in the circuit’s civil divisions, issued an administrative order last spring establishing this circuit’s new procedures for managing civil cases filed on or after April 30, 2021.

Judge Mahon issued an administrative order in October establishing new procedures for managing cases filed before April 30, 2021.

The goal of both administrative orders is to conclude litigation as soon as reasonably and justly possible.

The orders require the parties to engage in creating a case management plan that establishes deadlines for the different steps in litigating their case.

These administrative orders are on the 4th Judicial Circuit’s website. Please take the time to review them carefully.

The process for managing cases filed before April 30, 2021, begins with a notice the court will send to the parties in each qualifying case. The notice orders the parties to file a Case Management Plan with the court no later than 20 days after receipt of the notice. 

Case Management Plans are not required when: (a) a case has already been set for trial by court order or (b) an order establishing case management deadlines has previously been filed and served and is in full force and effect. In those cases, the parties have already moved beyond the need for a Case Management Plan.

The parties must use electronic versions of the Case Management Plan, which can be found on the circuit’s website. There is a plan for streamlined cases and a plan for general cases. The plans identify events in litigating a case and the deadlines established by rule as well as provide the parties with an opportunity to agree on dates for those events not subject to a mandated deadline.

Pursuant to the Florida Rules of General Practice and Judicial Administration, the plans must comply with the requirement that streamlined cases will be completed within 12 months and general cases within 18 months.

The presiding judge will review each Case Management Plan and, if approved, enter an order approving the plan requiring the parties to  comply with the deadlines as established in their plan. The parties also must comply with the specific guidelines of each division.

If the judge does not approve the plan, or the parties do not agree on a plan, the judge will order a Case Management Plan, perhaps after conducting a case management conference.

The parties may not modify the court’s order except upon motion or stipulation and court order.

Within 10 days of a civil case being at issue, or within 10 days from the date of the order approving the Case Management Plan if the case has been at issue longer than 10 days, the plaintiff shall confer with opposing counsel/party regarding the anticipated length of trial and file a Notice of Trial.

The plaintiff shall forward a copy of the notice and completed Trial Set Memorandum to the judicial assistant at the division email address noted on the circuit’s website together with a completed trial set memorandum to schedule the case for trial pursuant to each division’s written procedures.

The Supreme Court’s mandate for active judicial case management of civil cases is loud and clear.

The judges of the 4th Judicial Circuit, however, want to work with the Bar in making our implementation of the mandate a cooperative effort that is ultimately successful in improving the administration of justice.

We look forward to the opportunity to speak with you about case management in upcoming continuing legal education and Bar association programs.

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