Hello everyone and welcome to this Ethics Alert which will discuss the recent draft amendments to the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration which would clarify the requirements for substitute attorneys in litigation matters.
According to an article in the July 15, 2018 Florida Bar News, the Florida Bar’s Rules of Judicial Administration Committee has drafted revised rules to address requirements for substitute attorneys who appear at hearings when the attorney of record has a scheduling conflict.
At its meeting at the Florida Bar’s annual meeting in June 2018, the Bar’s RJA Committee considered a proposed amendment to Rule 2.505, clarifying which attorneys are authorized to represent a party and require substitute lawyers (“stand-in” attorneys under the proposed rule), to file a notice of appearance unless they are from the same firm, company, or agency as the attorney of record in the case. The committee did not require a first reading and the proposed rule amendments will be placed on the agenda for final committee approval at the Bar’s Fall Meeting in Tampa on October 19, 2018.
Substitute or covering (or “stand in”) attorneys are not currently mentioned in RJA Rule 2.505, which, inter alia, addresses how attorneys enter and leave cases. The use of substitute or covering (“stand-in”) lawyers has developed outside of the rules and with minimal authority. Cases from the various district courts of appeal have found that a document filed by a substitute attorney is a nullity or was subject to challenge.
The proposed rule amendment states that an attorney appears for a party by signing the first pleading or the first document a filed in a case, by filing a notice of appearance, being named as the succeeding attorney in a substitution order, filing a notice of substitution, or filing a notice of limited appearance. Current Rule 2.505 does not address coverage counsel or limited appearances.
The Bar’s Vision 2016 commission recommended rule revisions in cases in which a self-represented party hires an attorney to help in specific, limited issues, or circumstances. The RJA committee then submitted a more extensive amendment to Rule 2.505, which addressed how attorneys enter and leave a case, and limited appearances of attorneys.
The Florida Supreme Court rejected that proposed amendment in 2017 and stated: “While the attempt to develop one body of comprehensive rules that classifies different types of representation and governs how attorneys appear and terminate an appearance in a case is laudable, we believe more refined rules that address these matters for each of the various practice areas should be considered; and there should be more active involvement of and communication between all the affected rules committees before new proposals are finalized.” The September 7, 2017 Florida Supreme Court opinion is here: http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2017/sc16-1062.pdf
Bottom line: This issue has been around and debated for a number of years and many lawyers are not even aware of it and follow local custom when there is a need for a covering attorney. The proposed rule revisions are an attempt to create uniformity with regard to substitute/covering attorneys.
Be careful out there.
Disclaimer: this Ethics Alert is not an advertisement, does not contain any legal advice, and does not create an attorney/client relationship and the comments herein should not be relied upon by anyone who reads it.
Joseph A. Corsmeier, Esquire
Law Office of Joseph A. Corsmeier, P.A.
29605 U.S. Highway 19, N., Suite 150
Clearwater, Florida 33761
Office (727) 799-1688
Fax (727) 799-1670