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Chief Justice Canady issues new COVID-19 emergency order suspending jury trials through April 17

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Chief also releases a video address to Florida’s legal community and the public

Chief Justice's messageThe suspension of jury trials along with most face-to-face court proceedings has been extended for three weeks through April 17 by Chief Justice Charles Canady.

Administrative Order SC20-17 released March 24 also temporarily suspended speedy trial deadlines in criminal and juvenile cases and extended the time for which oaths may be administered remotely using audio-visual equipment, along with provisions of other recent administrative orders issued to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those orders were set to expire after March 27.

“This order is…issued to implement additional temporary measures essential to the administration of justice in Florida during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Canady wrote. “Nothing in this order (or the three previously referenced administrative orders) is intended to limit a chief judge’s authority to conduct court business or approve additional court proceedings or events that are required in the interest of justice so long as risks to the health of the individuals involved and the public health are minimized.”

Along with the order, Canady release a video statement to the legal community and public on how the court system has been affected by the pandemic.

“None of us can count on things getting any easier any time soon….We are all facing an unprecedented challenge,” Canady said in the video. “The pandemic is now affecting everyone. We are living our lives in a way that none of us would have contemplated a few short weeks ago. And none of us can count on things getting easier any time soon. We face many tough choices on the path ahead of us.

“The pandemic presents an extraordinary challenge for the legal system. We depend on human interaction to achieve justice under the law. We are working to maintain that interaction while also minimizing the spread of the virus. I am confident that the courts, the legal profession, and all of our partners are up to the task.”

While the order continued the suspension of jury trials (unless the trial is ongoing and the presiding and chief judge determines it is required by the interest of justice) and the suspensions of speedy trial procedures, it also continued an earlier administrative order requiring circuit and county courts to continue “essential and critical trial court proceedings,” such as first appearances, criminal arraignments, bail hearings, juvenile delinquency detention hearings, Baker and Marchman act hearings, and others. Such operations must be done in ways to minimize the possibility of spreading COVID-19.

The order continues expedited procedures on a warrant or capias in another Florida jurisdiction, sets procedures for competency hearings, suspends the necessity for clerks to issue writs of possession of Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1580(a), allows most family law forms to be filed without notarization or before a deputy clerk, and allows notaries or other persons authorized to administer oaths to do so via audio and video equipment from a remote location.

All other provisions of the three earlier administrative orders, AOSC20-13, AOSC20-15, and SCAO20-16, “that temporarily suspended procedural requirements and limitations that could hinder efforts to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on the courts, court participants, and all the people of Florida shall remain in place through the close of business on Friday, April 17, 2020, or as provided by subsequent order,” according to the new order.

Canady also wrote, “To maintain judicial workflow to the maximum extent feasible, chief judges are directed to take all possible steps to facilitate conducting proceedings with the use of technology. These emergency measures are necessary to ensure public health and safety during this unprecedented pandemic; however, the constitutional right of access to the courts by the public must be considered by the presiding judge in all cases.”

Canady also wrote that additional orders will be issued as necessary.

Canady’s video and all other Florida court COVID emergency orders and advisories available on one webpage as they are reported on a statewide basis: https://www.floridasupremecourt.org/Emergency

 

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