Chief Justice Charles T. Canady of the Florida Supreme Court issued an Administrative Order (Order) on May 4, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Justice Canady previously issued several other administrative orders implementing temporary measures for Florida Courts to follow to ensure that the administration of justice continues. The newest Order “extends, refines, and strengthens” the previously enacted administrative orders. The newest Order will remain in effect until the close of business on May 29, 2020, unless another date has been specified previously.
The Order has suspended all grand jury proceedings, jury selection proceedings, and criminal and civil jury trials until July 2, 2020. Furthermore, the Order has specified certain proceedings that may be conducted remotely. These proceedings include, but are not limited to:
- Alternative dispute resolution proceedings
- Status, case management, and pretrial conferences
- Non-evidentiary and evidentiary motion hearings
- Hearings in juvenile delinquency cases
However, if a judge determines that remotely conducting one of the above proceedings is inconsistent with the U.S. or Florida Constitution, statute, or a rule of court that has not been suspended by the Order; or remotely conducting the proceeding would not be feasible because the court, clerk, or other participant lacks the technological resources necessary to conduct the proceeding, then the proceeding need not be conducted using electronic means.
The Order seeks to limit in-person hearings to only those proceedings that are essential, or proceedings that are critical to the state of emergency or the public health emergency.
All rules of procedure, court orders, and opinions that limit or prohibit the use of communication equipment in conducting such proceedings remotely have been suspended. Moreover, the chief judge of each judicial circuit remains authorized to establish temporary procedures for the use of communication equipment in conducting proceedings by remote electronic means. Therefore, just because certain proceedings may be conducted in-person does not mean that certain judicial circuits can’t and won’t conduct such proceedings remotely instead.
Furthermore, the Order allows notaries and other persons qualified to administer an oath in Florida to swear in witnesses by remote audio-video communication technology from a location within Florida, provided they can positively identify the witness. Witnesses who are not located in Florida may consent to being put on oath via audio-video communication technology by someone authorized to administer an oath in Florida.
New attorneys may be sworn into The Florida Bar remotely by audio-video communication technology, provided that the person authorized to administer an oath in Florida can positively identify the new attorney. “Positively identify” means that the person who is authorized to administer an oath in Florida can see and hear the witness or the new attorney via audio-video communication technology.
The Florida Supreme Court may issue additional orders which extend or modify the measures outlined above.
Click on the link for a complete copy of the May 4, 2020 Administrative Order, No. AOSC20-23 Amendment 1.