Rules of Civil Procedure Amended Based on My Request

In re amendments to the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, case no. SC21-120

I was glad to see that my recommendations to the Civil Procedure Rules Committee were finally adopted yesterday by the Florida Supreme Court. This has been a long time coming. Two and a half years to be exact.

After litigating against attorneys who chose not to include the original discovery request in their client’s response, I felt it was time to make it a requirement. So I sent the following email to the Rules Committee liaison, Ms. Mikalla Davis, back on February 9, 2018:

Dear Ms. Davis,

I would like to propose some amendments to the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, specifically as concerns written discovery. If the following could be passed along to the relevant members of the Rules Committee, I would greatly appreciate their consideration of the proposal.

Having litigated cases for over five years, I have encountered certain outdated practices for written discovery that increase parties’ litigation costs and burden judges. I propose very modest revisions to three rules which I believe would benefit both bench and bar:

Rule 1.340(e) – For any party represented by counsel, removing the requirement to provide, following each interrogatory, “a blank space . . . reasonably sufficient to enable the answering party to insert the answer within the space.” Modern word processing makes this requirement outdated. More importantly, it is burdensome to the requesting party, and difficult for the responding party to review because many more pages must be thumbed through to read everything. In current practice, virtually every attorney utilizes word processing to propound and respond to interrogatories, requests for production, and requests for admission. Unless a party is not represented by an attorney (and thus may not have access to computer or software), a propounding party need not provide such a space.

Rules 1.340, 1.350 and 1.370: A responding party should be required to include, directly in‐line within the response, the text of the discovery request. While some attorneys voluntarily practice in this way, many lawyers do not. Often a responding party simply drafts the answers with numbers corresponding to the request, but omits the text of the original request. This practice forces the reviewing party (and frequently the court) to consult two separate documents when evaluating answers and objections: (1) the original discovery request and (2) the response. Most judges have only a single computer monitor, and switching between electronic files on their computer, or even physical paper on the bench, is both difficult and annoying. For attorneys it likewise leads to inefficiencies during litigation. Requiring that a party (when represented by counsel) include the corresponding text of the request directly in‐line with the response will aid in the overall judicial process. All attorneys are required to file electronically. Thus, the digital text of the discovery request can be quickly cut‐and‐pasted from PDF into a word processor. Further, any filing received by hardcopy can quickly be turned into machine readable text with use of OCR in Adobe Acrobat. Accordingly, the proposed new requirement on a responding party is minimally burdensome—and certainly far less burdensome than the subsequent review and assessment of separate documents by attorney and judge.

To ensure compliance with the requirement, cross‐reference might be considered to Rule 1.380.

Again, the revision only concerns parties represented by counsel. Presumably nearly every attorney (or at least their support staff) now uses word processing software and Adobe Acrobat. The above proposals seek to modernize written discovery practice to reflect current computing realities and increase efficiency.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

The Committee found it appropriate to not limit the rule to just attorneys. And I wholeheartedly agree with that. I had originally limited my requested revisions on the fear that they would not be implemented because it would burden pro se parties.

Happily, the committee consolidated the requirement into the general rule regarding discovery (1.280) rather than duplicating the requirement in each separate form of discovery. I am very proud to have effectuated a second rule change in my career, having previously secured a revision to the ethics rules.

I suspect I may not have been the only one to raise these issues, but I’d like to think my email, which Ms. Davis advised was referred to a subcommittee to study, was the reason behind the changes.

This will hopefully lead to less irritation with judges, faster hearings on objections, and more efficiency in discovery and trial–thus saving clients and ultimately benefitting the legal system.

The recent order of the Florida Supreme Court implementing these rule changes can be found here:

https://www.floridasupremecourt.org/pre_opinion_content_download/794030

It is case number SC21-120.

2 comments

  1. Thanks Angel. I was taught to do it that way from the beginning, and after experiencing the difficulty of multiple document review at a hearing where the judge is rapidly sustaining and overruling objections, I decided I’d had enough of the mess.

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