Supreme Court expands certified legal intern program

Supreme Court expands certified legal intern program

The change, “is intended to assist in the ‘avowed quest for experienced persons, while affording protections to the public’”

With an eye toward enhancing the provision of legal services to low-income Floridians, the Supreme Court on Thursday approved a rule change that would expand a certified legal intern program.

“We amend, on our own motion, Rule Regulating The Florida Bar 11-1.8 (Continuation of Practice Program After Completing of Law School Program or Graduation),” the ruling states.

The ruling notes the Supreme Court originally adopted the rule “[a]s one means of providing assistance to lawyers who represent clients unable to pay for legal services and to encourage law schools to provide clinical instruction in trial work of varying kinds.”

It goes on to state, “We now have determined that it would be beneficial to extend the maximum term of certification for the continuation of the practice program under the supervision of a Florida Bar member after graduation from law school and to permit these certified legal interns three opportunities to pass the Florida Bar examination before certification is terminated.”

The change, “is intended to assist in the ‘avowed quest for experienced persons, while affording protections to the public,’” the ruling states, quoting from the original rule.

An amendment to subsection (c) extends the maximum term of certification from 12 to 18 months.

An amendment to subsection (d) expands a condition for termination of certification from a second administration of the next available Florida Bar examination to a third.

In March 2023, the Florida Bar Board of Governors accepted a Florida Public Defender Association proposed amendment that would permit law school graduates to practice for up to a year under the supervision of an attorney while they await Bar admission.

FPDA President Carlos Martinez said he envisioned a practice program open to all law school graduates, not just those who participated in a law school practice program. The proposal would help public defenders and state attorneys deal with a crisis in turnover and recruitment, while also benefitting legal aid organizations, Martinez said.

“I see this as an access to justice issue,” he said.

The proposed amendment to Rule 11-1.8  would add a subdivision that states: “A graduate of an American Bar Association approved law school who has filed an application to The Florida Bar and received an initial clearance letter as to character and fitness from the Florida Board of Bar Examiners may make appearances for the maximum term of certification of 12 months from graduation for the same entities and under the same restrictions that are applicable to law school practice programs under this chapter.”

Failure to take the next available Florida Bar exam, or failure of any portion of the bar exam on the second administration, if necessary, would terminate the registration.

The February 15 Supreme Court order, In Re: Amendments to the Rule Regulating The Florida Bar 11-1.8, makes the revisions effective immediately.

However, because the amendments were not published for comment previously, the order establishes a 75-day public comment period that expires April 30.

Chief Justice Carlos Muñiz is joined in the order by Justices Charles Canady, John Couriel, Jamie Grosshans, Renatha Francis, and Meredith Sasso.

Justice Jorge Labarga concurs in part, and dissents in part.

“While I agree with the substance of the rule change extending a law school graduate’s maximum term of certification from twelve to eighteen months and permitting, where necessary, a third administration of the Florida Bar examination, I again dissent to the Court’s adoption of this amendment on its own motion.”

Labarga refers to a previous dissent that expressed a concern “about a pattern of [sua sponte] rule amendments.”

“Even where, as here, a rule change is unlikely to be controversial, I think the better practice in all but the most urgent instances is for this Court to publish proposed rule amendments for comment before adoption,” Labarga writes.

A retroactive comment period, Labarga argues, risks “a chilling effect on the submission of comments for the Court’s consideration, and in my experience, the input of interested persons and entities is of great use to this Court.”

Originally published at https://www.floridabar.org/the-florida-bar-news/supreme-court-expands-certified-legal-intern-program/

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