Numerous Florida Supreme Court orders issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic addressed the ways in which courts would pivot from in-person to remote court proceedings in order to keep court operations functioning. In an effort to minimize backlogs and bring pending cases to a quicker resolution, a new Active Case Management Program has been enacted across the 20 judicial circuit courts in the state of Florida in accordance with Chief Justice Charles T. Canady’s Administrative Order, Amendment 12, effective April 30, 2021.
As directed by Judge Canady’s order, each chief judge of the 20 judicial circuit courts have issued administrative orders that now require each presiding judge in all civil cases to review their cases to determine if a case falls into three categories: complex, streamlined, or general. As such, judges across the state have now been tasked with taking a more active role in ensuring that their assigned cases are resolved expeditiously through the court system.
In the Supreme Court’s Administrative Order, complex, streamlined, and general cases are clearly defined. Complex cases are defined as cases that involve complicated legal or case management issues that may require extensive judicial management to expedite the action. These cases may involve many parties, numerous pretrial motions, large numbers of witnesses, experts, and documentary evidence. Streamlined cases are defined as cases that involve few parties, non-complex issues related to liability and damages, few pretrial motions, a limited need for discovery, few witnesses and documentary evidence, and an anticipated trial length of less than two days. General cases are all other civil cases that do not fall under complex or streamlined definitions.
After the presiding judges review their assigned cases, a case management order will be issued for each streamlined and general case. Each issued order specifies the deadlines for service of complaints, service extensions, adding new parties, deadlines for discovery to be completed, and for objections to pleading and pretrial motions to be resolved, as well as when mediations and trials shall occur on a case. This new case management program marks a major shift from the Plaintiff exercising control over how a case progresses to the judges themselves in order to actively manage their civil case dockets. This change also places extra burden on Plaintiffs to comply with the case management orders to ensure they are meeting the prescribed deadlines detailed or be subject to sanctions for noncompliance. Therefore, it is important for all Plaintiffs to review the case management administrative orders in their judicial districts to understand the type of case that needs to be filed and the deadlines and requirements that will be associated.