Supreme Court sets unbundled services criteria for family cases

first_imgSupreme Court sets unbundled services criteria for family cases December 1, 2003 Gary Blankenship Senior Editor Regular News Supreme Court sets unbundled services criteria for family cases Senior Editor Beginning January 1, family law lawyers may offer limited assistance to pro se litigants in family law cases, following Florida Supreme Court approval of amendments to Bar and family law rules.Acting November 13, in Amendments to the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar and the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure (Unbundled Legal Services), case no. SC02-2035, the court approved the recommendations from the Bar’s Unbundled Legal Services Special Committee II, with some changes.The amendments allow lawyers to accept representation for discrete tasks in a family law representation — such as handling a hearing or drafting a specific document — without assuming responsibility for the entire case.“The ultimate result is going to encourage people to use the services of legal counsel. It will make them less intimidated about the cost,” said Hollywood attorney Adele Stone, who chaired the special committee. “It was certainly encouraged by the judiciary and the court, and it will give greater access to justice, which is encouraged and supported by the Bar.“I definitely look forward to seeing the implementation of this rule. I think it will benefit all concerned, the litigants and the judiciary.”“We’re extremely pleased. We felt this rule has been necessary,” said Richard West, chair of the Family Law Section. “This will be a benefit not only to pro se litigants but also attorneys, particularly young attorneys, because it will help get lawyers involved again in divorce cases.”West noted that the opinion cited studies that show 65 percent of initial filings in domestic relations cases have self-represented litigants and 80 percent of post-judgment proceedings have at least one party unrepresented. “Those of us who practice in this area of law know it is bogging down the system,” he said, adding that getting lawyers involved “will be a benefit to all.”The opinion assigned two tasks to the Bar: Prepare a brochure explaining to lawyers and litigants how unbundled representation will work and prepare a standard form attorneys can have clients sign when they want less than the lawyer’s full services in a case.The court also asked the special committee to monitor how the new rules work in the next two years, and recommend any changes that may be needed.“We emphasize that the goal. . . is to increase access to justice for those litigants unable to afford full representation on all portions of their case,” Justice Barbara Pariente wrote for a unanimous court. “Our intent in adopting the rule is to allow an attorney to engage in limited representation on a discrete substantive task, such as child custody, child support, alimony, or equitable distribution, or to appear for a specific hearing, such as a hearing on a motion for attorneys’ fees. If the rule functions as we envision by allowing limited representation on portions of a case in which a litigant would otherwise be unrepresented, we are cautiously optimistic that justice will be facilitated and not frustrated. This is especially so if the discrete substantive task for which the representation is undertaken involves a particularly intricate or complex family law issue.”The court recognized there can be problems with providing unbundled services. The opinion spelled out several scenarios and how those should be handled. Those include:• It is not necessary for a court to hear from both the lawyer and the party on an item the lawyer has been hired to handle.• When a litigant has hired several lawyers, only one should speak on an issue “so that the other side is not ‘double-teamed.’”• An attorney should not be retained solely to make evidentiary objections for the litigant. “We are concerned that if the rule were construed to permit such a scenario, there would be no clear division between those portions of the case for which the attorney is responsible and those for which the litigant is responsible,” Pariente wrote.• All parties must receive proper notice of hearings, including both the litigant and the attorney providing limited services. To facilitate that, the court agreed with a suggestion from 17th Circuit Judge Linda Vitale that the lawyer’s and litigant’s address and phone number be on all pleadings, hearing notices, and notices of limited appearance. The attorney hired for a limited purpose has the responsibility of notifying the opposing side that a hearing or other matter is outside the scope of the contracted representation.• Both the attorney and client should be served with all pleadings in the case.The court said attorneys will have special responsibilities when entering into limited representation agreements. That includes that lawyers must take care to explain the scope of their services to clients and all such agreements must be in writing.“[T]he attorney should advise the litigant that the attorney’s ethical obligations only extend to the representation for which the attorney was retained,” Pariente wrote. “The attorney does not have an ethical obligation to the client on other discrete portions of the litigant’s case.”For example, the opinion said, if the attorney is hired to present one issue at a hearing, the attorney will not interject himself or herself into another issue that is being dealt with by the client, even if the attorney feels there is a better way to handle that matter. Also, if during the representation the client decides the attorney should take over another portion of the case, a second consent form must be signed spelling out the expanded scope of the representation.The court approved the special committee’s recommendation to amend Bar rules 4-1.2, Scope of Representation, 4-4.2, Communication with Persons Represented by Counsel, and 4-4.3, dealing with unrepresented persons. The court also approved the committee’s suggested new Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.040, which outlines how unbundled services will work. That includes when an attorney is finished handling a limited part of a case, the attorney must file a notice of “Termination of Limited Appearance” with the court. The judge’s permission is not necessary to end the representation.The court, on its own motion, also amended Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.060 and Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.360 to conform with the new unbundled services rules.Pariente noted the groundbreaking nature of the amendments, writing that five other states have such rules and California earlier this year began implementing rules for unbundled services.The issue has surfaced in Bar and court studies for several years, and in 1999, the court’s Family Court Steering Committee recommended a rule be drafted to provide structure for limiting services. Former Chief Justice Major B. Harding followed up by creating the Access to Justice Task Force (chaired by Pariente), which as part of its recommendations said the Bar should undertake a review of unbundled services. A Bar committee recommended that unbundled services be encouraged, and the court determined that another Bar committee should draft the rules.That led to the Unbundled Legal Services Special Committee II, which submitted a report and suggested rules to the court last year. The court advertised the rules in the September 1, 2002, and November 1, 2002 Bar News and considered comments in reaching its final opinion.While the court is hopeful the unbundled rule will help both litigants and the courts, Pariente wrote, “It remains to be seen how a rule authorizing an attorney and a litigant to argue different portions of a case will operate in the courtroom. Further, the rule does not encompass all the possible scenarios of limited representation. In light of these concerns. . . we direct the committee to monitor the implementation of the rule and any difficulties that arise, and report back to this court within two years from the effective date of these amendments with recommendations for improvement or changes, if any.”The complete opinion can be found on the Supreme Court’s Web site at www.flcourts.org.last_img read more


India edge past Australia in 2nd ODI

first_imgNagpur: A brilliant century by skipper Virat Kohli and a disciplined bowling effort saw India defeat Australia by eight runs in the second One-Day International (ODI), here on Tuesday. India now have a 2-0 lead in the five-match series. Chasing a target of 251 runs, the visitors were dismissed for 242 runs in 49.3 overs.Asked to bat first, the hosts were bowled out for 250 runs in 48.2 overs. Despite Kohli’s century and a disciplined innings from Vijay Shankar, most Indian batsmen failed to rise to the occasion.Coming in to bat after Rohit Sharma was dismissed in the very first over, Kohli batted almost till the end, scoring 116 runs off 120 balls with 10 boundaries studding his patient innings. Vijay scored 46 off 41 deliveries before being run out.Put in to bat, India lost their first wicket in the opening over when opener Rohit Sharma (0) was sent packing by pacer Pat Cummins. The fall of Rohit’s wicket brought Kohli. He along with Shikhar Dhawan (21) played sensibly but just when it seemed good, Dhawan was adjudged leg before wicket off part-time spinner Glenn Maxwell in the ninth over with scoreboard reading 38 runs.New batsman Ambati Rayudu (18) also failed this time and was dismissed in the 17th over by experienced spinner Nathon Lyon.Kohli and Vijay then joined hands and forged a crucial 81-run partnership to stabilise the innings.The duo hammered the Australian bowlers all around the park before Vijay was run out by Adam Zampa in the 29th over. Vijay played 41 balls and slammed five boundaries and one six.The middle order, comprising Kedar Jadhav (11), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (0) and Ravindra Jadeja (21), failed. But Kohli completed his century before getting out in the 48th over by Cummins. Tail-enders Kuldeep Yadav (3), Mohammad Shami (2 not out) and Jasprit Bumrah (0) could not add much to the score.Brief scores:India: 250/10 (Virat Kohli 116; Adam Zampa 2/62) beat Australia: 242 in 49.3 overs (Peter Handscomb 48, Marcus Stoinis 52; Kuldeep Yadav 3/54, Jasprit Bumrah 2/29). IANS Also Read: Sports Newslast_img read more