Acting on the recommendations of a statewide Court Continuity Workgroup, Chief Justice Charles Canady issued a new emergency order May 4 increasing the list of proceedings state courts will accomplish by remote technology during the coronavirus pandemic.
It also extends the current suspension of jury trials in Florida until July 2. It makes corresponding changes to some legal deadlines by pushing them back until the Monday after the July 4 holiday weekend. Canady said in-person jury trials pose a special hazard because they can expose jurors and other courtroom participants to a risk of infection and future extensions will be considered if needed.
For first-degree murder cases, the new order suspends until July 2 some requirements for in-person preliminary hearings and a requirement that defendants be automatically released from custody if prosecutors are unable to file charges within 40 days.
The order especially focuses on increasing the resolution of cases by shifting as many of them as possible into a virtual environment with remote technology. In addition to work already required under an April 6 order, the amended list now adds the following:
Case types on this list will be held by telephone or other electronic means unless prohibited by the constitution or other law, or where one of the participants is unable to take part because of a lack of required technology or staffing problems caused by the pandemic.
Canady’s order embodies the first set of recommendations from the Workgroup on the Continuity of Court Operations, created by an April 21 order. The Continuity Workgroup was asked to submit recommendations as they are developed to guide a phased return to full court operations.
The expanded list of essential proceedings adds to earlier efforts to mitigate the impact of coronavirus while letting courts operate in a way consistent with public safety. Florida’s courts