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Florida courts lift mask, distancing requirements

A statewide order issued Friday also prioritizes jury trials as courts grapple with a case backlog.
The Florida Supreme Court building in Tallahassee, Florida.
The Florida Supreme Court building in Tallahassee, Florida. [ MARK WALLHEISER | Getty Images North America ]
Published Jun. 4
Updated Jun. 4

Florida’s chief justice on Friday permitted courts statewide to lift mask and social distancing requirements for in-person proceedings, which have been in place for more than a year in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

With almost half the state’s population vaccinated against the coronavirus and infection rates dropping, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady ordered that chief judges in local courts can drop the mask and distancing requirements as soon as June 21, and must do so by Aug. 2.

Canady’s order also directs that most routine court matters continue to be conducted remotely to prioritize jury trials, with criminal cases taking precedence. The order also sets a schedule for an end to the suspension of speedy trial deadlines. Speedy trial rules for defendants arrested before March 14, 2020, will resume Oct 4. For those arrested after March 14, 2020, speedy trial provisions will resume Jan. 3, 2022.

Court closures in the spring of 2020 created a backlog of cases throughout the state and forced judges and lawyers to take to Zoom and other remote online platforms to conduct many proceedings. Trials, though, must occur in person. Some local courts have managed to resume trials amid mask and distancing requirements.