On May 4, 2020, Chief Justice Charles T. Canady of the Florida Supreme Court issued a new emergency order
which extends, refines, and strengthens previously enacted temporary remedial measures during the coronavirus pandemic. This order revised certain sections of the previously-issued administrative order and is entitled Amendment 1 to Administrative Order No. AOSC20-23
Re: Comprehensive COVID-19 Emergency Measures for the Florida State Court.
The measures in this order are in effect until the close of May 29, 2020, unless otherwise provided in the order or subsequently modified. For instance, one notable provision in the order is that all jury proceedings, criminal jury trials, and civil jury trials will remain suspended until July 2, 2020.
Below is an overview of several key sections of the emergency order. This overview is not all-inclusive, and there other provisions which appear in the administrative order but do not appear below. For instance, the order also addresses defendants arrested on warrant or capias from another Florida jurisdiction, family law forms, and visitation for children under the protective supervision of the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), among other topics.
Use of Technology
The order sets forth the following regarding the use of technology:
- All rules of procedure, court orders, and opinions applicable to court proceedings that limit or prohibit the use of communication equipment for conducting proceedings by remote electronic means shall remain suspended
- Notaries and other persons qualified to administer an oath in the State of Florida may swear a witness remotely by audio-video communication technology from a location within the State of Florida, provided they can positively identify the witness. For purposes of this section regarding the administration of oaths, the term “positively identify” means that the notary or other qualified person can both see and hear the witness or new attorney via audio-video communications equipment for purposes of readily identifying the witness or new attorney.
Jury Proceedings and Jury Trial
The order provides the following regarding court proceedings:
- All grand jury proceedings, jury selection proceedings, and criminal and civil jury trials shall remain suspended through July 2, 2020.
Essential and Critical Trial Court Proceedings
The order sets forth the following regarding essential and critical trial court proceedings:
- All circuit and county courts shall continue to perform essential court proceedings, including but not limited to: first appearance; criminal arraignments as necessary; hearings on motions to set or modify monetary bail for individuals who are in custody; juvenile dependency shelter hearings; juvenile delinquency detention hearings; hearings on petitions for injunctions relating to safety of an individual; hearings on petitions for risk protection orders; hearings on petitions for the appointment of an emergency temporary guardian; hearings to determine whether an individual should be involuntarily committed under the Baker Act or the Marchman Act; and hearings on petitions for extraordinary writs as necessary to protect constitutional rights.
- In addition to essential proceedings, all circuit and county courts shall perform, as necessary and applicable, critical proceedings related to the state of emergency or the public health emergency, including but not limited to proceedings related to: violation of quarantine or isolation; violation of orders to limit travel; violation of orders to close public or private buildings; and enforcement of curfew orders
- In conducting essential proceedings and proceedings critical to the state of emergency or the public health emergency, circuit and county courts shall employ all methods feasible to minimize risk of COVID-19 exposure to individuals involved in the proceedings or the general public.
- No proceedings or other court events other than essential proceedings and proceedings critical to the state of emergency or the public health emergency shall be conducted through in-person hearings.
Non-Essential and Non-Critical Trial Court Proceedings
The order provides the following regarding non-essential and non-critical trial court proceedings:
- Each chief judge shall continue to review cases and court events and the communications technology resources available. The Workgroup on the Continuity of Court Operations and Proceedings During and After COVID-19 has determined that the following proceedings are amenable to being conducted remotely: (1) alternative dispute resolution proceedings; (2) status, case management, and pretrial conferences in all case types; (3) non-evidentiary and evidentiary motion hearings in all case types; (4) arraignments and pleas in absentia in county court misdemeanor cases; (5) hearings in juvenile delinquency cases; (7) hearings in noncriminal traffic infraction cases; (7) problem-solving court staffings, hearings, and wellness checks; and (8) non-jury trials in all case types, except for criminal, juvenile delinquency, and termination of parental rights petitions in dependency cases unless the parties in an excepted case agree to the remote conduct of a non-jury trial. Thus, it is hereby ordered that each of the above-listed proceedings shall be conducted using telephonic or other electronic means available in the subject jurisdiction unless a judge determines to the contrary.
Suspension of Time Periods in Certain Rules of Criminal Procedure
The order states the following regarding suspension of time periods in certain criminal procedural rules:
- Speedy Trial. All time periods involving the speedy trial procedure in criminal and juvenile court proceedings shall remain suspended through the close of business on Monday, July 6, 2020. The suspension of time limits under the speedy trial procedure restores additional days equal to the number stated in the previous orders and this order.
- Persons Arrested for First Degree Murder. With regard to persons arrested for first degree murder, all time periods under Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.133(b) and 3.134 shall remain suspended through July 2, 2020. The suspension of the time limits of Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.133(b) and 3.134 restores additional days equal to the number stated in the previous order and this order.
- Incompetence to Proceed. Where exigencies make it impossible to meet the 20-day time period in Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.210(b), chief judges of the circuit courts remain authorized to direct judges to hold competency hearings as soon as feasible after the date of filing a motion to determine competency. Chief judges also remain authorized to allow experts and attorneys to conduct and attend competency evaluations by remote means, if feasible.
Speedy Trial Procedure in Noncriminal Traffic Infraction Court Proceedings
The order sets forth the following regarding speedy trial procedure in noncriminal traffic infraction court proceedings:
- All time periods involving the speedy trial procedure in noncriminal traffic infraction court proceedings remain suspended. The suspension of time limits under the speedy trial procedure restores additional days equal to the number stated in the previous order and this order.
Writs of Possession
The order provides the following regarding writs of possession:
- The requirement in Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.580(a) for the clerk to issue a writ of possession “forthwith” remains suspended.
For additional information, please refer to the Court’s administrative order.
The Business and Corporate Attorneys
at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. hope that you remain healthy and safe during these difficult times. If you are in need of legal assistance please don’t hesitate to contact us for a consultation