It's part of state Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady's latest emergency order.
Acting on the recommendations of the statewide Court Continuity Workgroup, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady issued a new emergency order May 4 that adds to the list of proceedings state courts will accomplish by remote technology during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The Florida Bar.
Canaday’s latest order extends the current suspension of jury trials in Florida until July 2. The order also changes some legal deadlines by further extending them 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 particularly focuses on increasing the resolution of cases by shifting as many as possible into the virtual environment with remote technology. In addition to work already required under an April 6 order, the amended list now adds the following:
• Non-jury trials, except that all parties must agree to remote non-jury proceedings in criminal, juvenile delinquency, and termination of parental rights cases;
• Alternate dispute resolution cases;
• Status, case management and pretrial conferences in all case types;
• Non-evidentiary and evidentiary motion hearings in all case types;
• Arraignments and pleas in absentia in county court misdemeanor cases;
• Hearings in juvenile delinquency cases;
• Hearings in noncriminal traffic infraction cases;
• Problem-solving court staffings, hearings and wellness checks.
The proceedings above will be conducted 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.
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 have followed emergency guidelines since a March 13 order, when Canady suspended jury trials and took other actions restricting in-person proceedings to enforce social distancing.
Subsequent orders extended the limits through the end of May, subject to future orders made necessary by the pandemic.
All state court coronavirus emergency orders and advisories are linked on the state Supreme Court’s website: floridasupremecourt.org/Emergency