Supreme Court amends a host of Rules Regulating The Florida Bar
From revealing confidential information to prevent death or substantial bodily harm to retired lawyers to IOTA trust accounts, the Supreme Court March 16 amended 17 Bar rules and one bylaw.
The Bar’s proposals were all approved by the Board of Governors.
The more significant amendments, according to the court, include:
- In Rule 4-1.6, subdivision (b)(2), regarding when a lawyer must reveal information, is amended to make clear that confidential information must be disclosed to prevent death or substantial bodily harm to anyone, including a client. A new subdivision (c)(7) is also added to Rule 4-1.6 to permit a lawyer to reveal confidential information to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary to “respond to specific allegations published via the internet by a former client (e.g. a negative online review) that the lawyer has engaged in criminal conduct punishable by law.”
- Rule 1-3.5 is being reorganized and new subdivision (b) (Practice of Law Prohibited) added to explain requirements for retired Bar members. Specifically, retired members must not practice law in Florida unless reinstated to active membership in good standing or certified as an emeritus lawyer, must affirmatively represent their retired status, and must not hold themselves out as being able to practice law in Florida or render advice on matters of Florida law unless certified as an emeritus lawyer. Also, new language clarifies the requirements for retired members to be reinstated to active membership is added to new subdivision (c) (Reinstatement).
- In Rule 1-3.7, subdivision (f) (Members Delinquent 60 Days or Less) is amended to treat a failure to file a trust account compliance certification as an administrative delinquency. Additionally, language stating that the effective date of reinstatement relates back to the date of delinquency is replaced with language providing that a lawyer is not considered in violation of the Bar rules if an administrative delinquency is cleared within 60 days.
- In Rule 5-1.1, subdivision (g)(1)(E) is amended to expand the definition of an interest or dividend-bearing trust account to include a business or consumer deposit account, and in subdivision (g)(5)(A), language is added that requires eligible institutions to maintain IOTA accounts that pay the highest interest rate or dividend generally available from the institution to its non-IOTA business or consumer account customers, or its non-maturing deposit account customers when IOTA accounts meet or exceed the same minimum balance qualifications. And, in subdivision (g)(5)(B), language is added requiring eligible institutions to tie interest rates for IOTA accounts to specific indexed rate points. The court declined to adopt “proposed technical amendment to rule 5-1.1(g)(3) and the proposed amendment to rule 5-1.1(g)(5)(B) requiring a minimum net interest rate of 25 basis points.”
- In Bylaw 2-9.7, “current and former” is added to clarify that current and former officers of the Bar; members of the Board of Governors, UPL, Clients’ Security Fund, and grievance committees; and employees of the Bar will be covered by insurance and indemnification for actions taken while acting on behalf of the Bar in their official capacity.
- In Rule 11-1.2, subdivision (f) regarding the determination of indigency is deleted, as lawyers can look to the statutes and other sources for guidance on indigency rather than having the Board of Governors set the standards.
- Rule 11-1.8, which pertains to the rule chapter’s lack of effect on the unlicensed practice of law, is deleted, and rules 11-1.9 and 11-1.10 are renumbered as 11-1.8 and 11-1.9.
- Rule 19-1.5 is deleted, as the Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism and Civility was disbanded in In re Florida Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism and Civility, Florida Administrative Order No. AOSC19-12 (Mar. 12, 2019).
- New subdivision (h) is added to Rule 20-5.1 to make ineligible for the Florida Registered Paralegal Program persons who have “engage[d] in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation in the application or reapplication process,” which will allow the Florida Registered Paralegal Compliance Committee to deem someone unfit after a thorough investigation has been conducted as to whether an applicant possesses the professional standard or integrity expected of a Florida Registered Paralegal during the application or reapplication process.
The amendments become effective May 15, 2023, at 12:01 a.m.
The court acted in Case No. SC22-1292.