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IN RE: AMENDMENTS TO the RULES REGULATING THE FLORIDA BAR—BIENNIAL PETITION.
This matter is before the Court on the petition of The Florida Bar (Bar) proposing amendments to the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar (Bar Rules). We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 15, Fla. Const.
The Bar's petition in this case proposes amendments to the following existing Bar Rules: 1-3.7 (Reinstatement to Membership); 2-3.11 (Quorum); 2-9.2 (Standing Board Policies); 2-9.4 (Ethics); 2-9.6 (Rules of Order); 2-9.7 (Insurance for Members of Board of Governors, Officers, Grievance Committee Members, UPL Committee Members, Clients' Security Fund Committee Members, and Employees); 3-7.2 (Procedures upon Criminal or Professional Misconduct; Discipline upon Determination or Judgment of Guilt of Criminal Misconduct; Discipline on Removal from Judicial Office); 3-7.10 (Reinstatement and Readmission Procedures); 3-7.11 (General Rules of Procedure); 4-1.2 (Objectives and Scope of Representation); 4-1.5 (Fees and Costs for Legal Services); 4-1.10 (Imputation of Conflicts of Interest; General Rule); 4-1.19 (Collaborative Law Process in Family Law); 4-5.8 (Procedures for Lawyers Leaving Law Firms and Dissolution of Law Firms); 4-6.5 (Voluntary Pro Bono Plan); 4-8.3 (Reporting Professional Misconduct); 6-1.2 (Public Notice); 6-10.3 (Minimum Continuing Legal Education Standards); 14-6.1 (Binding Nature; Enforcement; and Effect of Failure to Pay Award); 14-7.1 (Immunity and Confidentiality); 18-1.2 (Definitions); 20-3.1 (Requirements for Registration); 20-5.2 (Duty to Update); 20-6.1 (Generally); 20-8.3 (Complaint Processing); and 20-8.6 (Disposition of Complaints). Additionally, the Bar proposes deleting Bar Rules 2-9.8 (Practice Resource Institute) and 3-7.15 (Amendments) in their entirety because they are duplicative of subdivisions of other Bar Rules. The proposals were approved by the Board of Governors and formal notice of the proposed amendments was published in The Florida Bar News, which invited comments from interested parties. No comments were received.
After having fully considered the Bar's petition, we adopt most of the amendments as proposed by the Bar and delete rules 2-9.8 and 3-7.15 in their entirety, as proposed by the Bar. However, as discussed below, we decline to adopt portions of the amendments proposed to rule 3-7.2, and we adopt modified amendments to rule 20-3.1. We discuss the more significant amendments below.
First, we amend Bar Rule 1-3.7 to increase the required number of continuing legal education hours in subdivision (c) for retired or delinquent attorneys seeking reinstatement from ten to eleven hours for each year or partial year of retirement or delinquency. Subdivision (g)(2) is also amended to require inactive members who are seeking reinstatement to complete thirty-three hours of continuing legal education, rather than thirty hours. These changes are made following this Court's opinion in In re Amendments to Rules Regulating the Florida Bar 4-1.1 & 6-10.3, 200 So.3d 1225 (Fla. 2016), in which the three-year continuing legal education requirement was increased from thirty hours to thirty-three hours.
Next, we amend Bar Rules 2-3.11, 2-9.2, and 2-9.6 to allow the Bar, and divisions thereof, to conduct electronic meetings. Specifically, Bar Rule 2-3.11 is renamed to “Electronic Meetings” and is rewritten to explicitly allow the Bar and divisions thereof to conduct electronic meetings. The title of Bar Rule 2-9.2 is amended to read “Adoption, Amendment, and Waiver of Standing Board Policies and Rules of Order,” and the text of the rule is amended to provide that in addition to standing board policies, the Board of Governors may adopt “special rules of order governing parliamentary procedures.” The text of Bar Rule 2-9.6 is amended to provide that Robert's Rules of Order is the parliamentary authority that governs meetings of the Bar to the extent that it does not conflict with any standing board policies or special rules of order; if there is a conflict, the standing board policies or special rules of order will control.
We next amend Bar Rule 3-7.2 to make clear that it is an attorney's duty to report pending criminal charges and any judgment thereon to the Bar. Several subdivisions throughout the rule are rewritten for readability and to make clear the duties imposed by the rule, and upon whom those duties are imposed. However, we decline to adopt the Bar's proposed amendment to subdivision (f) that would make discretionary the Bar's now-mandatory duty to file a Notice of Determination or Judgment of Guilt with the Court upon discovery that an attorney has been adjudicated guilty of a felony. Although the Bar expresses concern over having no discretion in cases involving a finding of guilt of a felony that requires no intent because the rule provides for the automatic interim suspension of the attorney, we find that the seriousness of having been found guilty of a felony offense militates in favor of this Court retaining the ability to review the circumstances surrounding the finding of guilt. Accordingly, we decline to adopt the Bar's proposed amendment in this regard. We note, however, that any concern that a sanction resulting from having been found guilty of a felony offense that requires no intent will be too severe is addressed by the procedures already present in the rule; subdivision (h) provides that the matter will be referred to a referee who can make a recommendation to the Court as to the appropriate sanction for the attorney's conduct, which the Court considers in imposing the final discipline.
We next amend subdivision (f)(4)(B) of Bar Rule 3-7.10 to make clear that attorneys seeking reinstatement that are required under that subdivision to complete the Florida bar examination or a portion thereof must have proof of having passed the required portions of the examination prior to filing a petition for reinstatement under that rule.
Additionally, we amend subdivision (h) within Bar Rule 4-1.5 to replace the provision that “[n]o higher fee shall be charged and no additional charge shall be imposed by reason of a lawyer's or law firm's participation in a credit plan” with a statement that “[l]awyers may charge clients the actual charge the credit plan imposes on the lawyer for the client's transaction.” By so doing, we hereby allow lawyers to pass on the actual costs resulting directly from a client's choice to pay a bill or invoice with a credit card, or make payments under a credit plan, to that client.
We next amend Bar Rule 6-10.3 to require that one of the five credit hours of continuing legal education per three-year reporting cycle that is required to concern legal ethics, professionalism, bias elimination, substance abuse, or mental illness awareness must concern professionalism. Additionally, we amend the definition of “supervising lawyer” contained in Bar Rule 18-1.2(c) to make clear that a supervising lawyer under that rule must be “eligible to practice law in Florida.”
Next, we amend various rules governing the Florida Registered Paralegal Program. First, we amend Bar Rule 20-3.1 to create an additional category of individuals who may become Florida Registered Paralegals; however, we modify the language proposed by the Bar to create the category for those with “a juris doctorate degree from an American Bar Association accredited institution and membership in good standing with a state bar association other than Florida's, with no minimum paralegal work experience.” We also amend Bar Rule 20-5.2 to provide that the Bar will notify a registered paralegal's supervising or employing attorney of any changes to the paralegal's registration status. Further, we amend Bar Rule 20-6.1 to increase the continuing education requirement for registered paralegals from thirty hours every reporting cycle to thirty-three hours, and requiring three of those hours to concern technology. Additionally, we increase the number of continuing education hours required for re-registering after resigning or having one's registration revoked from ten hours to eleven. These increases are consistent with recent increases that we have made with regard to required continuing legal education requirements for lawyers. Last, we amend subdivision (e) of Bar Rule 20-8.3 to require a registered paralegal to notify the supervising attorney if a complaint has been filed against the paralegal pursuant to that rule.
Finally, we delete two rules in their entirety because they are duplicative of provisions found elsewhere in the rules. Bar Rule 2-9.8 is deleted as duplicative of Bar Rule 2-3.2(d)(7). Additionally, Bar Rule 3-7.15 is deleted as duplicative of Bar Rule 1-12.1(f).
Accordingly, the Court adopts the amendments to the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar as set forth in the appendix to this opinion. Deletions are indicated by struck-through type, and new language is indicated by underscoring. The comments are offered for explanation and guidance only and are not adopted as an official part of the rules. The amendments shall become effective on March 5, 2019.
It is so ordered.
CANADY, C.J., and PARIENTE, LEWIS, QUINCE, POLSTON, LABARGA, and LAWSON, JJ., concur.
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Docket No: No. SC18-1683
Decided: January 04, 2019
Court: Supreme Court of Florida.
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