New Rules for Service of Pleadings and Documents by E-mail

New Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.516 – Service of Pleadings and Documents, effective September 1, 2012, was created by the Florida Supreme Court as part of the June 21, 2012 Order Amending the Florida Rules of Procedure to implement Service by Email.  The Order follows a trend of centralizing procedures common to multiple practice areas in the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration, which was first noted in the Confidentiality Procedure Amendments.

The new Rule 2.516 provides, generally, that service by e-mail is mandatory.  Exceptions are granted for pro se litigants and attorneys demonstrating they lack access to the internet.

Subsection (b)(1)(A) allows an attorney to file a notice designating up to two additional e-mail addresses to which service should be made.

Subsection (b)(1)(D) states that an email is served at the time it is sent.  That time deadlines are calculated as if service was accomplished by mail, i.e., you still get five days extra for “mailing.”  The option to eliminate the extra five days through service by fax is still available.

The format and content of the email must meet the following:

(i) All documents served by e-mail must be attached to an e-mail message containing a subject line beginning with the words “SERVICE OF COURT DOCUMENT” in all capital letters, followed by the case number of the proceeding in which the documents are being served.
(ii) The body of the e-mail must identify the court in which the proceeding is pending, the case number, the name of the initial party on each side, the title of each document served with that e-mail, and the sender’s name and telephone number.
(iii) Any document served by e-mail may be signed by the “/s/” format, as long as the filed original is signed in accordance with the applicable rule of procedure.
(iv) Any e-mail which, together with its attached documents, exceeds five megabytes (5MB) in size, must be divided and sent as separate e-mails, no one of which may exceed 5MB in size and each of which must be sequentially numbered in the subject line.

Some of the comments to the rule proposal objected that spammers might take advantage of this rule by inserting the phrase “SERVICE OF COURT DOCUMENT” in spam emails to lawyers.  We will see if this fear is realized.

Subsection (b)(2), appears to provide that service by email is mandatory even when other means of service, such as hand delivery to the attorney or their office, are used.

Section (h) governs the service of Orders and generally allows service of Orders by email.  The only exception appears to be a final judgment against a defaulted party, which must be mailed to that party.

The full Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.516 – Service of Pleadings and Documents is now up at Floridacivpro.com.

Update: This rule applies only after initial service is accomplished per Chapter 48, Fla. Stat.  You cannot serve the original complaint and summons by e-mail.

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