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Chief Justice praises tech staffs for COVID work

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Chief Justice Charles Canady

Chief Justice Charles Canady

Saying, “We could not have done it without you,” Chief Justice Charles Canady recently led a slew of court and clerk of court leaders in praising their IT staffs for keeping the court system running throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canady appeared on a video at the August 20 meeting of the Florida Courts Technology Commission where several other officials added their voices in praise of technology staff who kept clerk offices and courts running even when in-person proceedings were largely halted.

Perhaps tellingly, the FCTC meeting was changed from in-person to an online gathering as COVID cases again spike across Florida.

“It is no exaggeration to say that technology and the swift implementation by information technology staff in every jurisdiction allowed our courts to continue to serve people throughout this pandemic,” Canady said. “It is amazing to know we have conducted more than 375,000 Zoom meetings with more than 5 million participants since March 2020.”

When it became necessary to end most in-person court proceedings, court technology staff acquired and installed more than 1,700 Zoom licenses in weeks, which allowed the courts to carry on with remote proceedings, he said.

“I am so grateful for your work,” Canady said. “The people who had their cases heard are the direct beneficiaries and I extend my sincere thanks on their behalf and for your essential role in keeping Florida’s courts working.

“We could not have done it without you.”

Manatee County Clerk of Court and President of Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers Angel Colonesso, also appeared on the tape, which will be shown at clerk and court IT offices throughout the state.

“Thanks to the IT expertise of professionals in the courts and clerks of court offices throughout Florida, our judicial system is more accessible, more efficient, more convenient, and more secure than ever before….

“Your hard work not only keeps the court system running, it keeps it improving.”

Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Lisa Munyon, chair of the FCTC, made comments both on the tape and live at the meeting.

“That the judicial work of the court was able to go on, including the ability to support 1,000 judges statewide…was because of the IT staff both of the courts and the clerks. We could literally not have done it without you,” she said.

Justice Ricky Polston, liaison from the court to the FCTC, told the panel he got a first-hand lesson on the importance of IT support when he found himself and his wife working from home, and three children remotely attending school.

“And guess what, I was the IT staff person. That was a test and very frustrating,” he said. “I know how to use it, but to fix things, I don’t know how to do that stuff….

“The IT staff, you folks are the glue that hold it together…. We’ve had [virtual] oral arguments in this court and we’ve had [virtual] first appearances and proceedings from the rural Panhandle, which I’m from, all the way to Miami-Dade County and everywhere in between.

“It’s the IT staff supporting this technology that made the court proceedings possible…. Thank you on behalf of the court and the whole judicial branch for everything you’ve done.”

Outgoing Office of State Courts Administrator Lisa Kiel said the success in dealing with the pandemic built on recent improvements to the courts, including electronic filing (the e-filing Portal this year celebrated its 10-year anniversary).

“It is truly remarkable how hard IT staff of the courts through the state and OSCA have worked during the pandemic,” she said. “I also want to express my appreciation for the IT staff for the clerks of courts in all 67 counties. Together we have been able to provide access to the people we serve through what we all recognize are very challenging times….

“You’ve done marvelous work this past 18 months and I don’t know where we would be without you.”

Aside from the IT staff, Polston also praised Munyon for her work as chair of the FCTC and a special workgroup that recommended changes in rules to deal with COVID; Kiel, who is retiring after her second stint as state courts administrator; OSCA Chief Information Officer Roosevelt Sawyer; and Canady.

“The chief justice has been amazing,” Polston said. “I think he has read as many scientific journals as legal briefs throughout this pandemic and he has kept abreast of this…. He’s been extremely focused on the pandemic and its effect on the branch and the people of Florida.”

Munyon also praised Kiel, noting she has been instrumental in such programs as e-filing, putting court records online, and getting judicial viewers for judges to use in the electronic-based court system.

“She has made a mark on the judicial branch that is unparalleled in my 35 years as a lawyer,” Munyon said.

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