With everyone contemplating how long they’ll be working from home in a pandemic, the Florida Supreme Court basically locked down the state judicial system until June.
Chief Justice Charles Canady issued an emergency order Monday expanding previous deadlines to May 29, the last workday in May.
Previous orders suspended nonessential operations until April 17, which means the new order amounts to a six-week extension. Once again, Canady noted future extensions are possible due to the coronavirus.
The new timetable for suspending trial and most other in-person court operations was an unwelcome reality check for many, but some attorneys are taking the longer delay in stride. Social distancing is encouraged at required hearings, and remote technology is suggested for other proceedings.
“As a criminal defense attorney, I understand the delicate balance between public health and the rights of the accused. I hope that the Supreme Court reconsiders the closure dates as medical milestones are reached against this horrible pandemic,” said Miami attorney Bruce Lehr of Lehr Levi & Mendez.
GrayRobinson criminal and white-collar defense attorney Brian Bieber said, “Based on the scientific and medical data presented to the legal community and frankly the country at large, our chief justice obviously has his finger correctly on the pulse of what is fair for all litigants in Florida. The order strikes the proper balance of maintaining the public’s safety and its access to the courts.”
Miami criminal defense attorney David Edelstein called the extension “eminently reasonable. It’s much better than taking an incremental approach and shows that he has realistically assessed the situation,” noting projections for the COVID-19 apex in Florida to be in the first week of May. “Extending it a few weeks beyond that makes sense.”
Miami criminal defense attorney Jose Quinon said, “The judges are trying to save lives, the most important priority, although with a steep financial cost to litigants, lawyers and society at large.” He believes there’s “no other responsible way to do it.”
The new order:
- Suspends jury selection and grand juries.
- Suspends speedy trial rules for criminal matters and noncriminal traffic infractions.
- Suspends a rule requiring clerks of court to immediately issue paperwork on final judgments in eviction cases.
- Extends emergency changes to notarization and oath requirements.
- Extends health-related limits on court-ordered family visits with children in state custody, including allowing visitation by remote electronic means in some instances.
On Tuesday, Canady issued an administrative order extending education and certification deadlines for mediators certified by the Supreme Court, matching earlier orders for other legal professionals.
Meanwhile, Miami-Dade Chief Circuit Judge Bertila Soto issued an order restricting the recording of remote proceedings without previous permission from the presiding judge. Use of electronic devices for email, text messages and instant messages is permitted.
Read the order: