Judicial System Beginning to Shut Down Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
Tom Lemons, Legal Correspondent
March 16, 2020
FLORIDA – As we climb the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic, government and private sector operations are beginning to shut down and Florida’s judicial system is following suite.
On Friday, Chief Justice Charles Canady issued an administrative order that will limit almost all face-to-face legal proceedings in all 20 judicial circuits. The order suspends all criminal and civil jury trials until March 27, 2020 or until further notice by the Supreme Court. Justice Canady also authorizes local judges to conduct legal proceedings remotely. First appearance hearings and other “mission critical” court functions will continue. “Clerks will work to immediately implement the recent Supreme Court Administrative Order throughout the state. We are working through our statewide association, Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers, to provide information to all 67 county Clerks and coordinate, where possible, any additional information on jury service to the public,” said Stacy Butterfield, Polk County Clerk of the Circuit Court and County Comptroller, who also serves as President of the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers. Butterfield goes on the state, “Florida’s Clerks will continue to issue summonses to avoid delay to future court processes once the suspension of all jury trials is lifted. If you receive a summons, Florida’s Clerks recommend contacting the respective Clerk’s office to confirm whether you are required to appear.”
In the interest of speedy trial procedure, Justice Canady also ordered time periods be tolled until close of business on March 30, 2020 for all criminal and juvenile court proceedings. In addition, nearly all proceedings in civil, family or probate will be done by teleconference or by written submission of memorandum. The only exceptions are hearings that absolutely require a person appear and which must proceed without delay. Those include hearings dealing with imminent violence such as Injunctions for Protections and Risk Protection Orders.
Like most other business around the country, law firms and private practices are not immune to the effects of the Corona virus. Ayo & Iken Attorney Bruce Przepis says, “I just received an email from the Fifth Judicial Circuit Mediation Dept., requesting that my client’s mediation be postponed until May or conducted by telephone. I suspect more cancellations, postponements and outright closures will occur.” Przepis also says he’s also seen a spike in consultation no-shows due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Managing Partner for the Ayo & Iken Law Firm Howard Iken says, “Our offices will remain open; however, we recommend calling ahead to check the status of your scheduled consultations or court proceedings. We may not shake your hand right now but an elbow bump is always welcome!”