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Florida Civil Trial Changes

Get ready. There is a backlog of 2 million civil cases in the State of Florida and the Florida Supreme Court has taken notice.

A recent Florida Bar News article suggests that the Florida Supreme Court is considering some wide-ranging and seismic changes to streamline case management and to reduce the time it takes to get to trial.

A Streamlined and Accelerated Case Management Plan

A Judicial Management Council workgroup has been working on recommendations that would require legal counsel to create a case management plan at the outset with all requisite deadlines that must be adhered to.

Strict Deadlines

The workgroup's intention is to speed up the prosecution of the cases while reducing the time for obtaining hearings and orders. One commentator suggested that deadlines will be strict and continuances will be very difficult to obtain.

What the Future Holds

The work on this project started in October 2019 and the thought is it would take up to 18 months to implement once decided and in final form. Noticeably absent from the workgroup report was any recommendation as to the use of dispute resolution or early mediation to help resolve cases.

The Takeaway

While it is too early to comment in detail, my initial reaction is the Supreme Court possesses a unique opportunity at this time to implement uniform provisions in a new case management plan that provide for dispute resolution mechanisms and early mediation. To the extent that early mediation could result in a resolution, that would certainly reduce cases on the docket and less stress on already tight judicial resources.

The second takeaway is that trial lawyers had better start getting prepared for a whole new world in which their already limited time is going to be even further reduced. Case and time management skills will need to be improved to keep up with this new paradigm. Perhaps this alone will also motivate trial lawyers to analyze their cases more closely for early resolution purposes and to build better skills for dispute resolution.

Only time will tell.

Stay well,

Patrick Russell

Miami Florida Mediator

Meaningful Mediation is Ethical, Mindful, and Strategic

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