A person's first introduction to the court system can be overwhelming and intimidating. However, case management and pretrial conferences in Florida do not have to be either. These conferences are used for the court and parties, to the case, to find out what issues need to be addressed in court and deal with the scheduling of motions, pleadings, trial, or other important events. Generally, the court or either party can request a conference and a court date will be set for both parties to attend that conference. We will address both criminal conferences in Florida as well as civil conferences in Florida.
Criminal Pretrial Conferences in Florida
Criminal pretrial conferences in Florida are governed by the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, often referred to as "Rule 3.*** ". The Criminal Rules of Procedure are often used for many of the same reasons as the civil case management conferences. However, if the criminal-defendant fails to show up to a conference, the judge can issue an arrest warrant. Note, a criminal-defendant may be excused from a pretrial conference by filing a written waiver of their desire to appear at a pretrial conference in Florida. Criminal pretrial conferences help the judge flush out the issues for trial and also, allow the attorneys an opportunity to alert the judges to possible evidentiary issues, calendar conflicts, plea deals, etc. that could take place.
Civil Case Management Conferences in Florida
In Florida, civil case management conferences and pretrial conferences are governed by the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, often referred to as "Rule 1.*** ". A civil case management conference can be used to address many topics like scheduling, discovery (the exchange of information between parties), decisions the judge might need to make before trial, and many others. Note, it is not unusual for civil parties to absent themselves and allow their respective attorneys to attend civil case management conferences. These conferences can be ordered or requested any time after a responsive pleading or motion are due. However, the issue the court is considering must be given in the order or notice.
The court or either party can initiate a civil pretrial conference. The pretrial conference is used to determine:
- The simplification of the issues;
- The necessity or desirability of amendments to the pleadings;
- The possibility of obtaining admissions of fact and of documents that will avoid unnecessary proof;
- The limitation of the number of expert witnesses;
- The potential use of juror notebooks; and
- Any matters permitted in a case management conference.
The rules of civil procedure also provide guidance on the notice that is required. In a case management conference, there must be reasonable notice given to the parties, and a pretrial conference requires 20 days' advance notice. These notice requirements are in place because it is extremely important both parties, or their respective attorneys, show up for the conferences. If a party fails to show up to a civil conference, the court could dismiss the action or take other action related to the conference.
Case management conferences and pretrial conferences are an important part of the judicial process because they help move the case along in an efficient way while ensuring the court and attorneys are all on the same page about the issues in the case. Either party or the court can generally request a conference after a case has commenced. At the conference, both parties must be in attendance unless a client's appearance has been waived by the court. These conferences work towards promoting a fair and just trial process.