South Florida courts went deeper into retrenchment mode in response to the coronavirus as federal courts extended their trial delays and the Palm Beach clerk’s office scaled back to essential services only.
U.S. District Chief Judge K. Michael Moore delayed trials for a second time Friday until at least April 27, and criminal case deadlines set between now and then were continued. Judges were told to use their discretion with trial-related deadlines in civil cases.
Detained defendants who don’t wish to waive speedy and public trial rights are authorized to file motions with their trial judges, but Moore must be consulted before decisions are made.
Federal courts in South Florida remain open with a skeleton staff for essential services. Moore previously encouraged judges to allow remote appearances where permitted.
The Palm Beach clerk’s office scaled back to essential operations starting Tuesday in response to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order Friday, which shut down the county’s beaches and entertainment operations and trimmed restaurants and bars to takeout service and delivery through at least March 31.
Broward Circuit Court closed its courthouses March 16, which shuttered the clerk’s offices since they operate in the courthouses.
Miami-Dade courts cut back to only emergency and constitutionally mandated proceedings March 17, and most clerks are working remotely.
Florida state courts are operating only essential services through April 17 under plans announced by Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady.
The differences in timing and decisions about operations in South Florida were indirectly tied to COVID-19 cases, which have more than doubled in four days.
On Monday, Miami-Dade had 267 cases, up from 101 Thursday; Broward had 258 cases, up from 96; and Palm Beach had 89, up from 29.
Read the federal order: