Virtual jury civil trials will be the first phase of the test.
The 4th Judicial Circuit is one of five trial court circuits in Florida chosen to conduct a test of remote technology as a safer alternative to traditional in-person civil jury trials.
In addition to the 4th Circuit of Clay, Duval and Nassau counties, the circuits chosen are:
• Daytona Beach’s 7th Judicial Circuit comprising Flagler, St. Johns, Putnam and Volusia counties.
• Orlando’s 9th Judicial Circuit comprising Orange and Osceola counties.
• Miami-Dade County’s 11th Judicial Circuit.
• The Fort Myers 20th Judicial Circuit comprising Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, and Lee counties.
The COVID-19 Workgroup created by State Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady chose the circuits.
The work group advises Canady on court operations during the public health emergency. It chose the five circuits based on their different approaches ranging from fully remote operations to combinations of remote and in-person activities.
Among the criteria for selection were geographic diversity, differing levels of local infection concentrations and technological capacity within the trial court.
The first round of pilot programs will be limited to civil cases involving disputes among individuals rather than criminal cases. Criminal trials typically involve more complex issues of constitutional rights than civil trials.
Canady suspended all jury trials in the state March 13 to protect the health of participants and the public from transmission of the coronavirus. The suspension has been extended through July 2.
Some courts around the state are expanding pandemic operations this week by enforcing limitations on in-person contact as the areas they serve meet public health criteria for more normal activities. Pandemic precautions approved by Canady include use of remote “virtual” technology, personal protection equipment, physical distancing and staggered schedules for court events.