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Florida Court Update: New Orders Launch Pilot Program

Florida’s Chief Justice Charles Canady issued an Order on May 21st that will allow civil jury trials to be held remotely.

To stop the spread of coronavirus, Florida courts have not held a jury trial since March 16th of this year. As imagined, there is a backlog of cases that are waiting to be heard. To ready the systems, as Florida recovers through the three phases of getting our states reopening, a task force has been assigned with developing a plan that will ensure a smooth transition within the court system.

A 17-member COVID-19 Workgroup – Court Operations Subgroup (COS) – was created to recommend how to return to full court operations when possible. The group was tasked with identifying current overall status, including the large backlog, and how to move forward within the next few phases; determine which proceedings can remain in a remote platform after virus threat has passed – Phase 4; determine the priority of and resume order for live trials; and develop future planning for emergency/pandemic situations.

The report by COS was released on May 14th. The state of Florida is currently in Phase 1 of the states reopening. During this phase, the courts have deemed that in-person contact is inadvisable, court facilities are essentially closed to the public, and in-person proceedings are rare.

The main emphasis of the COS is keeping the public, the judges, court staff, and legal partners safe from the virus. Courts are to remain using technology for remote proceeding. The report encourages courts to increase the use of technology, be innovative, and expand remote capacity while limiting person-to-person contact.

The workgroup recommended a pilot program to slowly reopen beginning in Phase 2.  The court system, like the rest of the state of Florida is in Phase 1 or our reopening.

 

Three Important Elements

  • The program will only involve civil trial.
  • Social distancing measures will be used.
  • All parties involved in the proceeding must consent to participate.

 

The court must consider the following requirements and guidelines:
  • Remain using technology and working remotely when possible
  • Health screens including self-checks, temperature checks at courthouse, questionnaires,
  • Keep the practice of social distancing
  • Hygiene and sanitation and cleaning and disinfecting practices
  • Face masks
  • Staff training
  • Accommodations for vulnerable populations
  • Courtroom occupancy restrictions

There will be up to five Florida trial circuits selected to participate. The results from jury trial pilot is to be reported July 31st.

At this time, no jury trials or jurors will be called until after July 2nd and services remain limited.

 

What is Suspended?

  • Jury proceedings and Jury trials
  • Grand jury and selection proceedings
  • Criminal and Civil Jury Trials
  • Foreclosure Sales
  • Evictions
  • Criminal Court pretrial conferences are suspended
  • Speedy Trial time periods extended
  • Marriage Ceremonies
  • Passport Applications

What services are not suspended but limited?

  • Protection Orders
  • Probate
  • Child Support Information
  • Tax Deed Sales
  • Marriage License by appointment

 

The order is to ensure the safety of the public during the COVID-19 crisis. Public access to court facilities is limited to litigants or court participants only. Check the court’s website or with your attorney for more information.

Brooks Law Group remains dedicated to you and the community during this time of crisis. We are open, so please call us if you need legal assistance.

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