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Small claims rules.

The Small Claims Rules Committee has had another successful year and is building upon the foundation laid by our past chairs, Nicole D. Young and Taras S. Rudnitsky. The reason for our success is due to the hard work of our committee members and subcommittee chairs, which in turn maintains an active committee that has substantial involvement from its members. It has been an extreme pleasure to chair this committee as we adapt the Small Claims Court Rules to the changing technology in the legal system and procedures of the small claims court in Florida. The court is commonly referred to as the "people's court" and, during this year, there have been significant advances in continuing and furthering access to the court for pro se parties.

The major project this year was the request from the Office of the State Courts Administrator (OSCA) to provide feedback relating to the online questionnaires in the DIY Florida Project that pro se litigants would be using to create compliant documents that could then be e-filed on the e-filing portal. The DIY Florida Project Subcommittee did extensive work in reviewing the "Before You Start" informational packet and the form for the statement of claim (for money lent) located in Form 7.332 of the rules. The subcommittee has continued to review proposed forms that will be forthcoming in the DIY Florida Project, and its involvement will help ensure public access to the creation of the correct forms and content therein for e-filing in small claims court.

The Florida DIY Project tends to deal with e-filing from the pro se plaintiff's perspective, and in order to ensure balance for pro se defendants, the Forms for Defendants Subcommittee was created at the January 21 meeting. This subcommittee has begun analyzing and determining forms for use in the small claims court by defendants, most of which tend to be pro se individuals.

In order to continue communications with the judiciary of the small claims court throughout Florida, the Judicial Outreach Subcommittee was created to provide points of the contact and easier communication for Florida's judiciary and our committee for any new issues that noticed with our committee's rules.

The Rules Review Subcommittee has started the task of re-analyzing our rules in order to determine accuracy to references, whether any conflicts exist amongst the rules, and whether any current rules need to be removed for no longer being applicable to the present day and age of small claims court procedures. In order to stay in step with the application of technology and its use in the small claims court, the Implementation of Technology Subcommittee was created to consider the applicability of rules necessary in order to be on the forefront of technology use in the small claims courts.

Lastly, as a normal course of business, the committee filed its three-year cycle report with the Supreme Court seeking approval of all rule and form amendments approved by the committee since 2013. Included within the three-year cycle report were amendments to Rule 7.050; Rule 7.080; Rule 7.090; and Rule 7.160. Rule 7.050(e) was amended in order to correct the appropriate citation to a cross referenced rule for pretrial conferences, namely Rule 7.090(b). Rule 7.080 was amended to reflect the committee's review of Florida's e-filing and e-service rules and procedures as it relates to the participation of pro se parties. Rule 7.080(b) was amended to create two new subdivisions (b)(1) and (b)(2) to address parties represented by an attorney and parties not represented by an attorney. Amendments were also made to (b)(2) and (d) adding specific reference to Rules 2.516(b) and 2.525 of the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration. Rule 7.080(e) was amended to be consistent with the amended language in Rule 7.080(b). Rule 7.090(b) was amended to address situations in which a court dismisses a case due to the failure of the plaintiff to appear at a pretrial conference, even when a return of service was filed with the court showing non-service of the defendant. The amendment to Rule 7.090(b) creates an exception when a return of service is filed at least five days prior to a pretrial conference, in order to require cancellation of the pretrial conference as to any non-served party only. In that instance, the plaintiff is provided with the opportunity to request a new summons/notice to appear, along with a new appearance date for the pretrial conference. Rule 7.160(a) and (b) were amended to conform to the amendment of Rule 7.090(b).

I thank each and every member of the committee for their hard work and dedication over the last year, especially Steven Canter, vice char, and Alison Walters for her service for two terms as secretary. Also, I recognize and thank each member who served as a chair of a subcommittee during this past year, namely: Michael Debski (RJA Liaison and Rules Liaison Subcommittee); Alison Walters (Drafting Subcommittee); Taras Rudnitsky (DIY Florida Project Subcommittee); Judge Nancy Perez (Rules Review Subcommittee); Lloyd Comiter (Implementation of Technology Subcommittee); Jesse Butler (Judicial Outreach Subcommittee); and Amanda Duffy (Forms for Defendants Subcommittee). I especially thank our Florida Bar liaison, Heather Telfer, for her work in keeping our committee on track and organized. While the entire committee appreciates Heather for all of her work behind the scenes, the officers had the pleasure to work with her and know how awesome she made our committee this year. We were extremely fortunate to have her return as our liaison this year and thank her for her service.

I encourage every member of The Florida Bar to apply for appointment to a committee and especially to the Small Claims Rules Committee. Your involvement, dedication, and service will help shape the procedures and our rules, and is the silent advocate for continued justice in our courts.

Andrew J. Daire, Chair
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Title Annotation:Annual Reports of Committees of The Florida Bar
Author:Daire, Andrew J.
Publication:Florida Bar Journal
Date:Jun 1, 2016
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