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Fourth Circuit readies for completely virtual jury trial August 6

Senior Editor

Duval County CourthouseThe Fourth Judicial Circuit is about to mark a major milestone — the first fully remote, binding civil jury trial in a pilot program authorized earlier this year by Chief Justice Charles Canady in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The case, Cayla Griffin v. Albanese Enterprise, Inc., D/B/A Paradise, involves a former dancer at a Jacksonville night club who alleges that in 2018, she was struck and injured by a bouncer who ejected her from the premises.

Remote jury selection, conducted via Zoom, begins August 6 at 8:30 a.m. The trial, also conducted via Zoom, convenes August 10 at 9 a.m. before Circuit Judge Bruce Anderson.

All proceedings will be live streamed on the Court View Network.

“I would like to thank the clerk’s office, court IT staff, the North Florida Chapter of ABOTA, and the Jacksonville legal community for all of their assistance with this project,” Judge Anderson said in a statement. “Everyone involved has been working hard to develop the processes and procedures that will allow us to conduct a smooth and efficient remote jury trial. I especially appreciate all of our volunteers who served as jurors and attorneys in mock trials to make sure everything was in place to hold this first fully remote civil jury trial.”

A spokesperson for Duval County Court Clerk Ronnie Fussell said the trial will be the first fully remote, binding jury trial in Florida, and possibly the nation.

“We did some decent research on it,” said Brian Corrigan. “We don’t have evidence of anything else that was binding anywhere.”

The National Center for State Courts labeled a June proceeding in Texas the first remote jury trial in the nation, but the verdict was non-binding.

Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit, also selected to participate in the pilot program, conducted a hybrid trial in July that combined remote jury selection with an in-person trial that involved health screenings and extensive use of protective equipment, as recommended by a team doctors, epidemiologists, and infectious disease experts. That trial, involving an insurance dispute that arose from hurricane damage, was non-binding.

As mandated by Chief Justice Canady’s order, the parties in the Fourth Circuit pilot volunteered to participate and agreed to allow the proceedings to be streamed live, Corrigan said.

The plaintiff is represented by Matthew Kachergus of Sheppard, White, Kachergus, DeMaggio & Wilkison, P.A.

Kachergus will not face opposing counsel, Corrigan said.

“There is actually not an attorney on the defense side, it’s a corporation, and their attorney withdrew,” Corrigan said.

In a statement, Fussell praised his staff and court workers.

“I am proud of all of the efforts made to pull off this historic trial,” Clerk Fussell said. “Our team has been working closely with the Court and ABOTA throughout the entire process. With so many moving parts, collaboration between everyone involved is key and I am happy with the results of their efforts. I look forward to a successful remote jury trial.”

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