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Board Technology Committee would like to see uniformity for remote proceedings

Senior Editor Top Stories

With the COVID-19 pandemic still surging, Bar leaders are hoping to promote more uniformity for remote court proceedings.

At a June meeting, the Board Technology Committee discussed technical challenges lawyers have faced since March when the Supreme Court suspended most in-person proceedings.

Florida courts adapted quickly to remote proceedings, but they did so using different systems, and that has made life more difficult for lawyers, committee members said.

The requirement for submitting evidence electronically varies according to the preferences of individual judges and the platforms they use, said immediate past Chair Renée Thompson.

“How do I get my exhibits to the court? How do I get my exhibit to the counsel?” Thompson said. “It’s a little bit clunky right now as to how you deliver documents for evidence to all of the parties, and make sure they got those documents.”

Thompson said the state might consider using a single “cloud-based” system.

President-elect Mike Tanner said the technical requirements for submitting evidence can vary widely.

“I had a hearing last week over in the First Circuit, and every judge over there has his or her own set of rules and protocols that they use,” he said.

Tanner said his proceeding — a two-day injunction hearing that featured multiple expert witnesses and some 70 exhibits — was conducted mostly via the Zoom platform and went relatively smoothly.

“This particular judge wanted all of the exhibits emailed, and notebooks provided, to both chambers and opposing parties,” he said. “We also used the share system on Zoom, and we actually shared with one party by Dropbox.”

Some committee members said they were worried that the technical challenges will put pro se litigants at an even greater disadvantage. Thompson suggested that judges consider making online tutorials available to pro-se litigants before a scheduled hearing.

Part of the Board Technology Committee’s mission is to interact with the Florida Courts Technology Commission and the Standing Committee on Technology. Thompson suggested that the committee consider recommending a set of best practices to the FCTC that could serve as guidelines for each of the state’s 20 judicial circuits.

“I think if we can give the courts…best practices that are easy and efficient, they’re going to use them,” she said.

Committee Chair Jay Kim said he was looking forward to taking the reins at a time when the pandemic has thrust the committee into the spotlight.

“This is one of those situations where you take a bad thing and you see opportunities,” he said. “The Florida Bar has been a good leader in technology, and we should take this opportunity to continue to lead in this area.”

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