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COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Task Force looks for ways address case backlogs

Senior Editor Top Stories
Mike Tanner, Florida Bar President-Elect

Photo credit: Attorney at Law Magazine First Coast Edition

The Bar’s COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Task Force, with the aid of the Trial Lawyers Section, is working on recommendations to address the backlog of cases after civil jury trials resume on a more routine basis.

At a September 21 meeting, the task force voted to accept a Trial Lawyers Section white paper that recommended the appointment of senior judges, the temporary assignment of county court judges, and the possible assignment of private trial resolution judges under Chapter 44 of the Florida Statutes.

President-elect Michael Tanner, the task force chair, stressed that more work needs to be done.

“We heard a very good and detailed report on the possible approaches to deal with this,” Tanner said. “It was received positively and there are many steps to go.”

The task force plans to consult with the Office of State Courts Administrator and the Supreme Court’s COVID-19 workgroup, Tanner said.

In a related matter, the task force recently posted to its COVID-19 Information and Resource website two orders from 11th Judicial Circuit Civil Administrative Judge Jennifer Bailey. The orders also are designed to speed the resolution of cases.

A September 1 order establishing the “Trial Readiness Certification Program” requires litigants to meet case management deadlines and certify that their cases are trial ready before a trial date is set.

A September 8 order establishing the “Judicial Panel Case Resolution Conferences Pilot Program” allows parties to participate in one-day case resolution conferences presided over by a three-judge panel from the circuit’s appellate division.

Sia Baker BarnesThe task force also heard a report from Medical Subcommittee Chair Sia Baker Barnes. Barnes said a new CDC report https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6937a6.htm predicts that social distancing and other hygienic practices associated with the pandemic should slow the spread of seasonal influenza.

COVID cases are continuing to decline in Florida, prompting more businesses and law firms to reopen, Barnes said.

“In light of a large portion of the state moving to Phase 2, we should re-emphasize to our members the importance of face masks, social distancing, and hand washing,” Barnes said.

In other business, the task force:

• Is considering promoting “Care.com” to Bar members. The company offers low-cost, monthly subscriptions for child, elder, and other home care services.

• Is reviewing for potential action proposed rule changes submitted by the Fourth Judicial Circuit. The changes were prompted by the circuit’s participation in a remote jury pilot program. The task force will consider the proposed amendments — and any submitted by the 11th Judicial Circuit — at its next meeting.

• Is continuing to ensure that section-generated, COVID-related CLE materials are posted on LegalFuel.com.

• Heard an informal report that the Bar is continuing to negotiate for a financial services member benefit vendor to replace Bank of America when its contract expires. The Member Benefits Committee is expected to recommend the new vendor when it meets October 8.

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