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Chief Justice terminates COVID-19 emergency operational measures dealing with remote proceedings

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New comprehensive rules governing remote conduct of court proceedings took effect October 1

Florida-Supreme-Court-SealSupreme Court Chief Justice Carlos Muñiz has issued an administrative order that marks another milestone in Florida’s COVID-19 pandemic recovery.

In Re: Termination of Specified COVID-19 Emergency Operational Measures to Account for New Rules on Remote Conduct of Court Proceedings, AOSC-2251, repeals sections of a previous emergency order that addressed the use of remote technology.

In the new order, Muñiz notes the October 1 effective date of numerous rule amendments and court forms recommended by the Steering Committee on Families and Children in the Courts, and the COVID-19 Workgroup — formally known as the “Workgroup on the Continuity of Court Operations and Proceedings During and After COVID-19.”

Both panels “determined that permanent, broader authorization for remote proceedings was warranted based on the positive outcomes and efficiencies observed during the pandemic,” Muniz wrote.

The workgroup’s petition was largely drawn to Rule of General Practice and Judicial Administration 2.530 (Communications Technology) and encompassed six other rule sets — Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure, Probate Rules, Traffic Court, Small Claims, and Appellate Procedure.

Then Chief Justice Charles Canady directed the steering committee to develop remote technology amendments regarding delinquency, dependency, and family proceedings.

The new administrative order repeals eight sections of the Supreme Court’s previous order, In Re: COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols and Emergency Operational Measures for Florida Appellate and Trial Courts, AOSC21-17, Amendment 3 (January 8, 2022), that encouraged the use of remote technology before the amendments were approved:

“In light of the Court’s adoption of comprehensive rules governing remote conduct of proceedings, the following provisions of AOSC21-17, Amendment 3, addressing, directly or indirectly, remote proceedings shall terminate, effective immediately,” the order states.

The provisions are:

1) Section II.A., “Use of Technology”;

2) Section II.B., “Administration of Oaths”;

3) Section II.D., “Appellate Court Proceedings”;

4) Section II.E.(1), “Juror Disqualifications, Excusals, and Postponements”;

5) Section II.E.(2), “Jury and Other Proceedings”;

6) Section II.E.(3), “Remote Civil and Criminal Jury Selection Proceedings and Trial Proceedings”;

7) Section II.E.(4), “Other Trial Court Proceedings”; and

8) Section II.E.(5), “In-Person Trial Court Proceedings.”

The order states that the repeal of the provisions is “not intended to affect lawful actions taken under the authority of the provisions while they were in effect.”

A proceeding “properly scheduled under the authority of these provisions for remote conduct before termination of the provisions for a date occurring after termination may continue to be conducted remotely,” the order states.

In Re: Termination of Specified COVID-19 Emergency Operational Measures to Account for New Rules on Remote Conduct of Court Proceedings, AOSC-2251, may be found here.

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