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Technology Committee releases ‘Florida Bar Recommended Best Practices Guide for Remote Court Proceedings’

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Technology Committee releases ‘Florida Bar Recommended Best Practices Guide for Remote Court Proceedings’
Jay Kim

Jay Kim

Months of collaboration with Bar sections, committees, judges, and outside groups has paid off with the Board of Governors signing off on a guide for remote court proceedings.

At a March 5 virtual Board of Governors meeting, Board Technology Committee Chair Jay Kim reported that the latest iteration of “Florida Bar Recommended Best Practices Guide for Remote Court Proceedings,” updated February 25, is ready to post.

“It will be updated as necessary as more things develop,” Kim assured the board.

The guide is posted on the COVID-19 Information and Resources webpage, as well as, the webpage of LegalFuel: The Practice Resource Center of The Florida Bar.

The board agreed in December to circulate an initial draft for suggestions to be received by January 20.

More than 40 commenters responded, Kim said, including a group that represents Florida’s court reporters and another representing public defenders. Combined, they submitted more than 100 comments, Kim said.

The guide is non-binding and not meant to supersede court procedural rules or administrative orders, the authors stressed.

Instead, it was designed to address frustrations Bar members expressed when the pandemic forced the closure of courthouses and work transitioned to video or teleconferencing, whenever possible.

Some of the most frequently reported challenges, other than mastering the technology itself, included navigating the different platforms being used across Florida’s 20 judicial circuits, and varying procedures for such things as evidence submission and document sharing.

The guide’s recommendations range from proper attire, lighting, and bandwidth, to evidence submission.

It is divided into five sections:

  • Remote Procedures Applicable to All Proceedings
  • Remote Procedures Applicable to Non-Evidentiary Hearings
  • Remote Procedures Applicable to Evidentiary Hearings
  • Remote Deposition Procedures
  • Remote Mediations

The guide is just one of several pandemic-themed projects that the Board Technology Committee took on with a sense of urgency last year, with a schedule that included months of weekly meetings.

In addition to the guide, the Board Technology Committee has proposed a non-emergency IT helpline, to be promoted to solo and small-firm lawyers, for possible inclusion in the Member Benefits Program. A three-month beta test launches later this month.

The Board Technology Committee is also negotiating with Zoom executives to include lawyer-recommended features in its videoconferencing platform. Some lawyers asked for expanded camera views in a remote proceeding as a method for discouraging witness coaching.

Kim’s committee also asked the Standing Committee on Technology to tackle other pandemic-related projects, including a series of CLEs to help members with the basics of videoconferencing, and a study of blockchain technology and its potential applications for the legal profession.

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