When and how will Florida’s court system get moving again? A newly assembled work group of judges, lawyers and court clerks will have to decide.
Florida’s Chief Justice Charles Canady announced the 17-member group’s creation Tuesday in an order that directed them to come up with a plan for an eventual return to normal court operations in the months ahead as the threat from the coronavirus pandemic evolves.
Most in-person court proceedings came to a halt statewide last month amid efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. The chief justice ordered all jury trials and grand jury proceedings to be postponed and speedy trial rules suspended. Some court hearings have continued via telephone and video conference. Only emergency matters and critical proceedings have been permitted to be conducted in person.
The Chief Justice’s order Tuesday identifies four phases for the group to study. The first, the present phase, is when in-person court contact is rare. The next phase is when limited in-person contact may be permitted with some precautions. The third is when in-person contact becomes more broadly authorized and precautions are relaxed. The final phase is when the coronavirus is no longer a significant threat.
The group’s tasks include assessing all court matters that have been delayed by the pandemic and proposing ways of resolving them with remote technology. They will also propose guidance for protective measures to allow judges, court personnel and the public to return safely to court facilities. They will make recommendations about which in-person proceedings can resume, identify metrics to monitor case backlogs, figure out which proceedings should continue to be held remotely, and identify issues to be addressed in planning for future pandemics.
The group will send recommendations to the Florida Supreme Court as they develop rather than in a final report. They will meet through June 30, with extensions possible after that.
Orange-Osceola Circuit Judge Lisa Taylor Munyon will chair the group. The other members are:
Philip G. Archer, 18th judicial circuit state attorney
Kimberly C. Bonner, chief judge of the 12th judicial circuit
Hope Tieman Bristol, 17th judicial circuit judge
Stacy M. Butterfield, Polk County Clerk of Court
Jay Cohen, Fort Lauderdale attorney
Daniel DiGiacomo, marshal for the 4th District Court of Appeal
Howard L. Dimmig, II, Polk County Public Defender
Kevin Emas, chief judge of the 3rd District Court of Appeal
Gary A. Hagan, court technology officer for the 14th judicial circuit
Charles Hydovitz, third judicial circuit court administrator
Christopher Kelly, Volusia County judge
Don H. Lester, fourth judicial circuit judge
Janeice T. Martin, Collier County judge
Michael T. McHugh, chief judge of the 20th judicial circuit
Bertila Soto, chief judge of the 11th judicial circuit
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John A. Tomasino, clerk of the Florida Supreme Court
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