Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady issued an order Monday suspending jury trials through July 2 and directing courts to hold other types of proceedings by telephone or video conference. Trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at courthouses, Canady had earlier suspended jury trials, jury selection and grand-jury proceedings through May 29. Along with extending the suspension, Canady’s order directed that proceedings such as non-jury trials, motion hearings, juvenile-delinquency hearings and hearings in non-criminal traffic infraction cases be held by telephone or videoconference.
The order would allow circuit chief judges to decide whether holding such proceedings remotely would be barred legally or would not be feasible for technology reasons. As in earlier orders, Canady also wrote that circuit and county courts “shall continue to perform essential court proceedings,” such as first-appearance hearings in criminal cases, bail hearings for people in jail and hearings to determine whether people should be involuntarily committed under the Baker Act.
“No proceedings or other court events other than essential proceedings and proceedings critical to the state of emergency or the public health emergency shall be conducted through in-person hearings,” Canady wrote. He also added, “In conducting essential proceedings and proceedings critical to the state of emergency or the public health emergency, circuit and county courts shall employ all methods feasible to minimize risk of COVID-19 exposure to individuals involved in the proceedings or the general public.” The Supreme Court, meanwhile, is slated Wednesday to hold oral arguments by video conference for the first time.