When Was That Filed, Again?
Electronic Service and Filing Deadlines During and After COVID-19
July 6, 2020
Filing deadlines are one of the most important logistical aspects of litigation practice. Fortunately, we have substantive statutes and procedural rules to assist in the proper computation of time. Specifically, Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.514 governs how to compute time to arrive at the correct deadline date. If I was served with a document on a Friday, do I start counting from the next day, a Saturday, or the following Monday? If my deadline falls on a holiday, is the filing still due that day? Does it matter if I was electronically served or served via regular mail? Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.514 generally answers such questions in a relatively straightforward manner. One question that does require a bit more analysis, however, is what happens if you are electronically served on a weekend? Is that document deemed filed on the weekend day, or the following Monday? With more judges and counsel working remotely due to the COVID-19 restrictions and a sharp shift to remote hearings that allow a judge to enter an Order over a weekend, it is imperative to understand the electronic service and filing time computation rules.
To explore the rules that impact weekend filings, consider first the following scenario:
Your boss wants you to work over the weekend to file an Amended Complaint that is due Monday. Is there any advantage to filing on Saturday an 86-page Amended Complaint for opposing counsel to review bright and early on Monday morning?
In this case, opposing counsel’s response deadline would move up one day due to filing on Saturday rather than on Monday, assuming that the deadline does not fall on a weekend or holiday. This is simply a function of the rule stating that you begin counting a deadline that is stated in days or longer from the next day that is not a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday.[i] As to the fact that you are electronically serving a document on a Saturday, electronic service of all required or permitted documents served through the e-filing Portal or other e-Service system is complete on the date the served document is electronically filed.[ii] The filing date for a document served through the e-Portal is the date and time that such filing is acknowledged by an electronic stamp or some other acknowledgment, or the date the last page of such filing is received by the court or clerk.[iii] (Not sure that the latter much applies given today’s e-filing system, unless you are filing the document in parts, but the guidance is there if you need it.) Therefore, if you file your Amended Complaint on Saturday night and receive confirmation from the e-filing Portal that the document was filed that Saturday, the document will also be deemed served that Saturday. However, because of the time computation rules, the outcome for opposing counsel given a 10 or 20-day response deadline would be no different whether you file on Friday at 11:59pm or Saturday, again because you would not begin counting to calculate the response deadline until Monday. Practically-speaking, then, whether you file on Friday or Saturday is up to you.
Consider now the scenario posed at the outset of this article. The Court e-filed an Order over the weekend and gave you a 10-day deadline to comply. Is the Order deemed filed on the following Monday, and when is compliance due? Applying the same rules as stated above, the Order is not necessarily deemed filed on Monday. As long as the Order has a time stamp acknowledging the date and time of the e-filing, the Order is deemed filed and served on the date indicated in the time stamp, which very well may be a Saturday or Sunday.[iv] Nevertheless, whether the Order is deemed filed on a Saturday or Sunday, your 10 days begin on the following Monday.[v] If there is a delay in the processing and the time stamp shows that the Order was electronically filed on Monday, then you begin counting your deadline on Tuesday.
The major amendments to the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration regarding e-filing occurred in 2013.[vi] While forward-thinking in general, the various amendments to the email and e-filing procedures were still cautious in treating e-mail as regular mail for time computation purposes, thus, still adding five days to a required deadline despite the instantaneous nature of electronic service.[vii] It was not until January 1, 2019, that the new Rules became effective to eliminate the extra five days.[viii] It may seem obvious that an electronically-filed document may be deemed filed the same day, but a careful reading of the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration makes it clear that we cannot simply rely on what feels common sensical to determine the filing and service date of e-filed documents. The most important take-away is to pay attention to the time stamp on the document that you electronically served. If for any reason there is a delay in the electronic processing of your document, you will have to shift your deadline calculations accordingly. In short, despite the instantaneous transmission of electronic documents, it is prudent to never assume that a document that is served through the e-filing Portal was actually served on the same day. One thing learned from the COVID-19 challenges is that technology when appropriately used and properly regulated can be a vital ally. With social-distancing restrictions slowly lifting, let us not lose the technological momentum gained, but pay even closer attention to the rules now governing and that surely will govern our increasing reliance on technology in the legal profession
[i] Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.514 (a)(1)(A).
[ii] Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.516 (b)(1)(D)(i).
[iii] Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.525 (f)(3).
[iv] Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.516 (b)(1)(D)(i); 2.525 (f)(3).
[v] Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.514 (a)(1)(A).
[vi] See In re Amendments to the Fla. Rules of Judicial Administration, 126 So. 3d 222,226 (Fla. 2013).
[vii] See Id. (Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.516 (b)(1)(D)(iii)).
[viii] See In re Amendments to the Fla. Rules of Civ. Procedure, 257 So. 3d 66, 67-68, 70-71 (Fla. 2018).