Florida’s highest court will hear oral arguments next month via teleconference, an effort to move cases along while maintaining social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The May 6 oral arguments will occur via a Zoom meeting, the court announced Tuesday.
The remote meeting is the first time in the court’s 160-year history that arguments will not be conducted in person. Instead, each of the five justices currently serving on the court will tap into the meeting online through Zoom software. The lawyers in each case will also call in to make their arguments and answer questions from the justices.
The public will be able to view live video and audio of the Zoom arguments on the Supreme Court’s website and Facebook page. The court clerk’s office will work with lawyers beforehand to set up a Zoom connection, a court spokesman said in a news release.
Since 1997, the court has televised its oral arguments. Two decades later, it became the first appellate court in the nation to routinely stream arguments on Facebook.
Cases scheduled to be heard in the May 6 session include one that involves a proposed ballot initiative to allow recreational use of marijuana. Another case has to do with a company owned in part by Tampa strip club operator Joe Redner, which faces a challenge from the state in its efforts to secure a license to grow medical marijuana.
The pandemic has created unprecedented hurdles for courts statewide. Supreme Court arguments for April were canceled as Chief Justice Charles Canady issued a series of orders postponing most in-person court proceedings, including jury trials.
Local courts have moved some cases through telephone and video conferences. Critical proceedings, such as first appearances and bail matters, have continued.
Some of the state’s appeals courts have also arranged to hear oral arguments via video. On Tuesday, the West Palm Beach-based Fourth District Court of Appeal held its first Zoom-based arguments, which were live-streamed on YouTube. In its first case, a foreclosure matter, three judges and two lawyers appeared on individual screens while a sixth screen focused on a digital clock, which ticked down from 15 minutes for each side.
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