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Chief issues new order on essential and critical court proceedings in COVID crisis

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Most court operations to remain suspended, or conducted electronically, except for ‘essential’ and ‘critical’ court proceedings

COVID-19Chief Justice Charles Canady is ordering most court operations to remain suspended, or conducted electronically, except for “essential” and “critical” court proceedings, which will be given priority over other cases.

The order also requires that these proceedings be conducted in a way that minimizes the risk of COVID-19 virus exposure. Non-essential and non-critical court proceedings will be rescheduled, postponed, or canceled unless they can be effectively conducted using remote technology, according to the order.

Administrative Order AOSC20-15, released after 9 p.m. on March 17, may be viewed here.

The order goes on to define “essential” and “critical” court proceedings as including, but not limited to “first appearance; criminal arraignments as necessary; hearings on motions to set or modify monetary bail for individuals who are in custody; juvenile dependency shelter hearings; juvenile delinquency detention hearings; hearings on petitions for temporary injunctions relating to safety of an individual; hearings on petitions for risk protection orders; hearings on petitions for the appointment of an emergency temporary guardian; hearings to determine whether an individual should be involuntarily committed under the Baker Act or the Marchman Act; and hearings on petitions for extraordinary writs as necessary to protect constitutional rights.”

In addition to essential proceedings, all circuit and county courts are ordered to perform “critical proceedings” related to the state of emergency or the public health emergency including, but not limited to, proceedings related to “violation of quarantine or isolation; violation of orders to limit travel; violation of orders to close public or private buildings; and enforcement of curfew orders.”

The chief justice wrote that nothing in the order limits the ability of a chief judge to determine that additional proceedings, other than those suspended by Administrative Order No. AOSC20-13, are essential or are critical to the state of emergency or the public health emergency.

“However, no proceedings or other court events other than essential proceedings and proceedings critical to the state of emergency or the public health emergency shall be conducted through in-person hearings until such time as the public health emergency is resolved, or as provided by subsequent order,” Canady said.

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