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Jax Daily Record Monday, Mar. 14, 202204:50 AM EST

Middle District: Pandemic trend ‘looking good’

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Chief Judge Timothy Corrigan says the federal court is recovering from the coronavirus impact.
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

For the second time in two years, and the first time in-person, U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida Chief Judge Timothy Corrigan delivered his annual State of the District presentation March 3 to the Jacksonville Chapter of the Federal Bar Association.

Speaking to a group of about 75 federal judges and practitioners at the Bryan Simpson U.S. Courthouse, Corrigan said he continues to be impressed by how the attorneys who practice in federal court adapted to the procedural challenges and changes because of COVID-19 safety protocols.

For the past two years, much of the court’s business and voluntary Bar association meetings had to be conducted remotely by telephone or Zoom, but that could change.

“The Middle District is starting to look better on the pandemic front,” Corrigan said.

Jury trials are resuming, along with traditional hearings in courtrooms and chambers.

“While virtual and telephone appearances have their place, I continue to view in-person proceedings as the gold standard,” Corrigan said.

Based on the most recent opinion of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the face mask requirement could be lifted inside federal courthouses in the district in favor of a personal choice option.

“Our COVID Committee is looking at that issue. The trend is looking good,” Corrigan said.

The Jacksonville Division also is reinstating its community outreach events, he said.

The court recently invited a group of students from LaVilla School of the Arts to visit the courthouse. Students create original art that is displayed in the jury assembly room and other locations in the building.

The Jacksonville Division’s newest members of the bench,  U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Jacob Brown and U.S. Magistrate Judge Laura Lothman Lambert, participated in the presentation.

Lambert is a former assistant state attorney in the 4th Judicial Circuit. Brown is a former partner at Akerman and chaired the firm’s bankruptcy practice group.

Corrigan asked the new judges to share what surprises them related to the transition from attorney to judge.

Lambert, sworn in Nov. 4, said it is strange to realize that everyone is looking at her the whole time they are in court.

She also said it was a major transition to be able to call a recess during proceedings.

“I still forget that I’m the judge,” she said.

Brown said he notices that as a judge, he does not experience the adrenaline that an attorney often feels while representing a client in court.

“I miss that a little bit,” he said.

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