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Administration rules amended to keep lawmakers informed: court also addresses cameras in the courtroom.

The Supreme Court has amended the Rules of Judicial Administration so that legislators will be better informed about the court's procedural rulemaking process, but declined to adopt rules that would have placed greater restrictions on the use of cameras at the courthouse.

The court acted November 3 in In Re: Amendments to the Rules of Judicial Administration (Two-Year Cycle), case No. SC05-173. The rules in question included Florida Rules of Judicial Administration 2.050, Trial Court Administration; 2.051, Public Access to Judicial Branch Records; 2.060, Attorneys; 2.085, Time Standards for Trial and Appellate Courts; 2.130, Procedure for Amending Rules; and 2.170, Standards of Conduct and Technology Governing Electronic Media and Still Photography Coverage of Judicial Proceedings.

Rulemaking

"In order to ensure that the legislature is included in the rulemaking process," the court said it amended subdivisions (a), (c)(2), (c)(5), (e), and (f) of rule 2.130, Procedure for Amending Rules, to add the speaker of the House, Senate president, and the chairs of the House and Senate committees as designated by the speaker and the president as individuals required to receive notices of hearings, copies of rules changes, committee reports, revised proposed rules changes, and notices of oral argument on proposed rule changes.

The court, on its own motion, also added language to subdivisions (a), (c)(5), (e), and (f) recognizing that the clerk of the Supreme Court may provide notice required under those subdivisions electronically.

Cameras

The court declined to adopt proposed new rule 2.170(b), Photographing Jurors Faces, which media organizations and the First Amendment Foundation maintained was inconsistent with prior court decisions. Rule 2.170(b) would have given trial judges the authority to prohibit the photographing, either by movie, video, or still camera, the faces of the prospective or seated jurors, either individually, jointly, or collectively.

The court also declined to adopt proposed new subdivision (a)(iii) of rule 2.170, which would have expressly recognized the presiding judge's authority to "protect fights of privacy and prevent disclosure of privileged and confidential matters" in connection with electronic media and still photography coverage of judicial proceedings.

The court also declined to adopt proposed new rule 2.170(c)(5), which would have provided that the "court's security cameras shall be used for security purposes only."

Rules cycles

The court also amended rule 2.130(c), Schedule for Rule Proposals, because it determined that the current two-year cycle for rules changes, which was adopted in 2000, has "proved impractical" and has "overwhelmed" the volunteer rules committees by "overly compacting" the regular cycle rulemaking process.

"The major amendment is to subdivision (c)(1), which changes the regular cycle for proposed rule amendments from a staggered two-year cycle to a staggered three-year cycle," the court said.

The new cycle commences in 2006 with the various rules committees divided into three groups for reporting purposes.

The court also:

* Amended subdivision (e) of rule 2.050, Local Rules and Administrative Orders, to delete the requirement that circuit court clerks furnish copies of administrative orders to the executive director of The Florida Bar.

* Amended rule 2.051, Public Access to Judicial Branch Records, to add a commentary to provide guidance for resolving disputes concerning access to judicial records. As amended, subdivision (d)(1) (Review of Denial of Access Request) and subdivision (e)(2) (Procedure) of the rule require 1) the judge denying access to judicial records to file a sealed copy of the requested records when ordered to do so by the appellate court, and 2) the custodian of the records to state in writing the basis for the denial.

"These requirements will provide the reviewing court with express reasons for the denial of a public records request and will allow the court to conduct an in-camera inspection of the documents," the court said, noting that commentary was added recognizing appellate courts' inherent authority to appoint a special magistrate to serve as commissioner for the appellate court to make findings of fact and oversee discovery in proceedings under the rule.

* Amended rule 2.060(b), retitled Persons Employed by the Court Not to Practice, to clarify that the prohibition against engaging in the practice of law applies to all full-time court employees. The amendment also adds court employees acting in their official capacity as individuals to whom legal representation may be provided. The amendment also clarifies that the prohibition against an attorney formerly employed by a court representing anyone in connection with a matter in which the attorney participated "personally and substantially" while employed by the court may be waived after full disclosure and the consent of all parties.

* Adopted new rule 2.085(d), Related Cases, in response to the Family Court Steering Committee's year 2000 recommendations for implementing unified family courts in Florida. The new rule implements the committee's recommendation that the court adopt a rule of judicial administration that would "require judges who are assigned to different cases involving the same family to confer, and to coordinate pending litigation to maximize judicial efforts, avoid inconsistent court orders, and avoid multiple court appearances by the parties on the same issues." The new subdivision also creates a procedure for the filing of notice of related cases by a petitioner in a family case if related cases are known.

* Declined to adopt amendments to subdivision (d) of rule 2.071, Use of Communication Equipment. The amendment would have given the courts discretion to use communication equipment to take testimony, over objection by the parties. The amendment was proposed at the suggestion of the Family Law Rules Committee in order to relax the rule to allow for more widespread use of communication equipment for testimony in family law hearings.

"Although several committees filed reports supporting the amendment in general or favoring the use of electronic means for receiving testimony under certain limited circumstances, none of the committees offered narrowly drafted proposals that would allow for the use of communication equipment in specific types of cases or under limited circumstances," the court said.

"Although we again decline to adopt the proposed amendment to subdivision (d) of rule 2.071, we adopt the proposed amendment to subdivision (c) of that rule," the court said. "The amendment to subdivision (c) exempts 'juvenile' proceedings rather than 'delinquency' proceedings from the requirement that a request to participate in a motion hearing through communication equipment must be granted, absent a showing of good cause to deny the request, where the motion hearing is set for not longer than 15 minutes."

The court said that change conforms subdivision (c) with subdivision (d)(4) of the rule which addresses the waiver of confrontation rights that may be abridged by the use of communication equipment in "juvenile and criminal proceedings."

"In response to concerns raised in the comments, we emphasize that the amendment to subdivision (c), which applies to motion hearings, should not be viewed as inconsistent with the court's prior rejection of the use of audiovisual equipment in delinquency detention hearings," the court added.

* Delete the references to the Workers' Compensation Rules Committee in subdivisions (b)(3) and (c)(1) of rule 2.130. The repeal of the Rules of Workers' Compensation Procedure eliminates the need for that committee.

The amendment to rule 2.130 is effective immediately. The amendments to the remaining rules are effective January 1.
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Author:Killian, Mark D.
Publication:Florida Bar News
Date:Dec 1, 2005
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