Parental Leave Continuance Policy Rejected

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Case management is such an important task for litigators. We must plan how best to utilize the allotted and often limited time provided for each case. Some courts set strict case management deadlines while others permit the parties to proceed at their own pace without much direction. We must budget our time in an efficient and reasonable manner. We must also balance our personal commitments with the needs of our clients and that is no easy task. Ultimately, all attorneys have faced scheduling conflicts due to personal commitments: vacations, appointments, and family obligations. What about the birth of a child? The Florida Supreme Court recently considered, and rejected, whether to adapt a policy to stay litigation during an attorney’s parental leave.

Parental leave policies permit employees an opportunity to care for a newborn child. For many, that leave provides invaluable time to provide for a newborn. But, litigation does not take vacation. This places attorneys who are parents of a newborn in a difficult position: to request postponement of an active matter or to somehow juggle childcare or some combination of the two.

The Florida Rules of Judicial Administration Committee considered a rule that would address motions for continuances based on the lead counsel’s parental leave. Ultimately, the Committee recommended against such a rule believing that it was best to leave such case management decisions to the discretion of the presiding judge.

Those in favor of the rule argued that a parental leave continuance rule would provide more predictability in the court’s treatment of continuance requests and would “reduce obstacles to career advancement faced by women who bear children” and would encourage male use of leave.

The Committee considered whether it was prudent to delay a case due to an attorney’s personal situation, especially if the delay could cause potential harm to the parties, the court, opposing counsel. Judges frequently address whether to grant continuances taking into account the reason for the request, the history of the case, the matters in dispute, the age of the case, court resources and other factors. The judge must balance many factors. The Committee concluded that a rule addressing parental leave was not necessary to address these concerns and that the court was in the best position to effectively consider the issues on a case-by-case basis.