Supreme Court Extends COVID-19 Emergency Measures Through May 29, 2020

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On April 6, 2020, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles T. Canady issued Administrative Order (AOSC20-23) to extend the prior emergency measures that had been adopted in March to help maintain the administration of justice during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief Justice Canady wrote that the intent of the order is to “extend, refine, and strengthen previously enacted temporary remedial measures.” The purpose of the order is to maintain judicial workflow as much possible while conducing proceedings remotely with the use of technology.

The order provides as follows:

  • All grand jury proceedings, jury selections, and criminal and civil jury trials are suspended through Friday, May 29, 2020, with limited exceptions subject to approval by the chief judge of each circuit.
  • The administrative order differentiates between "essential and critical court proceedings" and "non-essential, non-critical court proceedings".
  • “Essential" court proceedings include proceedings necessary to protect the public, including arraignments, bond hearings, juvenile shelter hearings, emergency temporary guardians, detention hearings, injunctions for domestic violence, and hearings related to protection of the elderly, as well as protection of the public under the Baker Act or the Marchman Act.
  • “Critical” court proceedings are court proceedings related to the COVID-19 public health emergency, such as violation of quarantine, violations of orders to limit travel, violations of orders to close buildings, and violations of curfew orders.
  • Essential and critical court proceedings will be prioritized, with chief judges “required to take all steps feasible to minimize the delay”. Proceedings may be conducted in person only if the use of technology is not feasible.
  • All non-essential and non-critical court proceedings will be rescheduled, postponed, or cancelled until after May 29, 2020, unless they can be done through telephone or remote technology, without the need for court appearances.
  • With regard to foreclosures and evictions, the requirement that clerks of court issue writs of possession “forthwith” continues to be suspended through May 29, 2020. In light of the ongoing pandemic, many sheriffs were unwilling to execute such writs. Because of the order, no writs will be issued or delivered before May 29, 2020, delaying both foreclosure and eviction proceedings.
  • The notarization requirement for family law forms remains suspended through May 29, 2020, provided that the declarant includes an attestation in the manner set forth in the order.
  • Through May 29, 2020, depositions and other forms of sworn testimony may be taken remotely. The requirement of having the notary in the physical presence of the witness has been suspended, and it is sufficient for notaries or other qualified persons to see and hear witnesses via audio-video communications.
  • Through May 29, 2020, witnesses who are not located in the State of Florida may be put under oath by audio-video communication by a notary located in the State of Florida. In the past, the notary (usually the court reporter) needed to be in the same location in the witness.
  • New attorneys to the Florida Bar before May 29, 2020, may be sworn in remotely.

This administrative order essentially extends the prior emergency measures adopted by the Supreme Court on March 13, 2020, March 17, 2020, March 18, 2020, March 24, 2020, March 27, 2020, and March 30, 2020.

The judicial system continues to serve the public, but nearly all of those proceedings will be done remotely or by conference call.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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