Eventual reopening could be temporary and regional, chief justice says.
Florida businesses are returning to work this week, with restrictions, but state Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady says it’s too early to predict when the Florida courts will be fully operational.
“I extended the prohibition on jury trial proceedings through early July. But I can’t tell you that in early July, we will go back to jury trials,” Canady said in a news release published by The Florida Bar.
Addressing a videoconference meeting of The Florida Bar board of governors May 15, he said the inability to hold jury trials is creating a case backlog that will have to be addressed.
Canady said he expects additional recommendations from the Workgroup on the Continuity of Court Operations and Proceedings During and After COVID-19.
Reopening likely will be temporary and regional.
“It’s possible that, initially, we will go back to jury trials in some parts of the state but not in other parts of the state,” Canady said. “Additionally, I would expect that when we start back, it will be on a limited basis, because, as we’re feeling our way, we won’t be able to go back to 100%.”
Canady said he wants to make sure that the courts are prepared for any resurgence of the pandemic after the initial rate of infection levels off.
“There’s likely going to be a recurrence, possibly a more intense recurrence of this virus, and we’ve got to be prepared for that eventuality,” he said. “Now, I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, and how that’s going to come, and how that’s going to be manifested, but we have to be vigilant as we go forward.”
The state budget also is feeling the effects of the pandemic, Canady said.
Filing fees that pay for most court operations have fallen significantly, but they are climbing again and there should be enough reserves in a state trust fund to last the fiscal year, he said.
Canady said Florida’s legal community should be praised for the way it has responded to the health crisis.
“All of us have reason to be proud of the legal profession, and we’re going to soldier on, we’re going to get beyond this, we just don’t know when,” Canady said.