In January of 2019, the American Bar Association passed a resolution “urg[ing] the enactment of a rule by all state, local, territorial, and tribal legislative bodies or their highest courts charged with the regulation of the legal profession, as well as by all federal courts, providing that a motion for continuance based on parental leave of either the lead attorney or another integrally involved attorney in the matter” be granted under certain circumstances.
The Florida Supreme Court recently did just that. In the last regular opinion release of 2019, the Florida Supreme Court amended the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration by adopting a modified version of the parental-leave continuance rule submitted by the Florida Bar’s Rules of Judicial Administration Committee. See In re Amendments to the Fla. Rules of Judicial Admin.—Parental Leave, No. SC18-1554, 2019 Fla. LEXIS 2360 (Fla. Dec. 19, 2019). This new parental-leave continuance rule is found in Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.570 and became effective on January 1, 2020.
The parental-leave continuance rule provides that generally:
[A] court shall grant a timely motion for continuance based on the parental leave of the movant’s lead attorney in the case, due to the birth or adoption of a child, if the motion is made within a reasonable time after the later of:
(1) the movant’s lead attorney learning of the basis for the continuance; or
(2) the setting of the specific proceeding(s) or the scheduling of the matter(s) for which the continuance is sought.
Rule 2.570 states that three months is the presumptive maximum length of time for a continuance. However, the rule allows a party to demonstrate good cause that more time would be appropriate under the circumstances.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, the trial court is afforded the discretion to deny the requested parental-leave continuance or grant a continuance that differs in scope or duration from the request, if the court finds that the continuance would (1) “substantially prejudice” another party; or (2) “unreasonably delay[s]” an emergency or time-sensitive matter.
If a party objects to the continuance and makes a prima facie showing of substantial prejudice, then the movant has the burden to show that the prejudice that would stem from the denial of the requested continuance exceeds the prejudice that would be suffered by the opposing party should the court grant the continuance. The trial court “shall” set forth its ruling in writing and provide the particular grounds supporting the court’s decision. Rule 2.570 does not expressly apply to criminal, juvenile, and involuntary civil commitment of sexually violent predator cases.
The Florida Supreme Court’s opinion adopting rule 2.570 is found at https://www.floridasupremecourt.org/pre_opinion_content_download/545415.