ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER1As a result of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the State Surgeon General and State Health Officer on March 1, 2020, declared that a public health emergency exists in Florida, and the Governor on March 9, 2020, declared a state of emergency for the entire state. The Florida state courts have taken measures to mitigate the effects of this public health emergency upon the judicial branch and its participants. To that end, I have issued several administrative orders implementing temporary measures essential to the administration of justice during the COVID-19 pandemic.2 The overarching intent of those orders has been to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, while keeping the courts operating to the fullest extent consistent with public safety.
It is the intent of the judicial branch to transition to optimal operations in a manner that protects the public’s health and safety during each of the following anticipated phases of the pandemic:
b) Phase 2 – limited in-person contact is authorized for certain purposes and/or requires use of protective measures;
c) Phase 3 – in-person contact is more broadly authorized and protective measures are relaxed; and
d) Phase 4 – COVID-19 no longer presents a significant risk to public health and safety.
Under the administrative authority conferred upon me by article V, section 2(b) of the Florida Constitution and by Florida Rules of Judicial Administration 2.205(a)(2)(B)(iv) and 2.205(a)(2)(B)(v),
IT IS ORDERED that:
I. GUIDING PRINCIPLES
B. To maintain judicial workflow to the maximum extent feasible, chief judges are directed to take all necessary steps to facilitate the remote conduct of proceedings with the use of technology. For purposes of this administrative order, “remote conduct” or “conducted remotely” means the conduct, in part or in whole, of a court proceeding using telephonic or other electronic means.
C. Nothing in this order is intended to limit a chief judge’s authority to conduct court business or to approve additional court proceedings or events that are required in the interest of justice, if doing so is consistent with this administrative order and protecting the health of the participants and the public.
D. Judges and court personnel who can effectively conduct court and judicial branch business from a remote location shall do so. Participants who have the capability of participating by electronic means in remote court proceedings shall do so.
II. USE OF TECHNOLOGY
B. The chief judge of each district court of appeal and each judicial circuit remains authorized to establish procedures for the use, to the maximum extent feasible, of communication equipment for the remote conduct of proceedings, as are necessary in their respective district or circuit due to the public health emergency.4
C. Administering of Oaths
(2) If a witness is not located within the State of Florida, a witness may consent to being put on oath via audio-video communication technology by a person qualified to administer an oath in the State of Florida.6
(3) All rules of procedure, court orders, and opinions applicable to remote testimony, depositions, and other legal testimony, including the attestation of family law forms, that can be read to limit or prohibit the use of audio-video communications equipment to administer oaths remotely or to witness the attestation of family law forms, shall remain suspended.7
(4) Notaries and other persons qualified to administer an oath in the State of Florida may swear in new attorneys to The Florida Bar remotely by audio-video communication technology from a location within the State of Florida, provided they can positively identify the new attorney.
(5) For purposes of the provisions regarding the administering of oaths, the term “positively identify” means that the notary or other qualified person can both see and hear the witness or new attorney via audio-video communications equipment for purposes of readily identifying the witness or new attorney.
III. COURT PROCEEDINGS
B. Remote Civil Jury Trial Pilot Program. A pilot project to identify and evaluate issues relating to the conduct of a civil jury trial through remote means has been authorized through In re: Remote Civil Jury Trial Pilot Program, Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC20-31, Amendment 1 (June 8, 2020). Notwithstanding any other provision in this administrative order, judicial circuits selected to participate in the program by the Workgroup on the Continuity of Court Operations and Proceedings During and After COVID-19 may conduct remote civil jury trials pursuant to the requirements established by the workgroup. If any portion of those trials will be conducted in person, such conduct must be consistent with Section III.F.
C. Juror Excusals and Postponements. For purposes of limiting in-person contact to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and of addressing hardships related to the pandemic, each chief judge of a judicial circuit shall direct the clerks of court to create a process that will enable the automatic:
• Is a person at higher risk for severe illness due to COVID-19 infection as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and requests to be excused;
• Must care for a child or relative whose regular care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19; or
• Is receiving leave pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
• Has suffered a financial or personal loss due to COVID-19 that makes it a hardship to perform jury service.9
hearings on motions to set or modify monetary bail for individuals who are in custody;
juvenile dependency shelter hearings;
juvenile delinquency detention hearings;
hearings on petitions for injunctions relating to safety of an individual;
hearings on petitions for risk protection orders;
hearings on petitions for the appointment of an emergency temporary guardian;
hearings to determine whether an individual should be involuntarily committed under the Baker Act or the Marchman Act; and
hearings on petitions for extraordinary writs as necessary to protect constitutional rights.
(3) It is recognized that certain essential or critical trial court proceedings in some jurisdictions may in extraordinary, limited circumstances be unavoidably delayed due to the exigencies of the ongoing emergency. When this occurs, chief judges are required to take all steps feasible to minimize the delay.
(4) 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.
(2) Grand jury selection and proceedings, other than statewide grand jury selection and proceedings; civil jury selection and trials; and criminal jury selection and trials shall be conducted in person after the suspension of these proceedings ends pursuant to Section III.A.
(3) Non-jury trials in:
• Termination of parental rights and juvenile delinquency cases shall be conducted remotely if ordered by the chief judge or the presiding judge or, if not, shall be conducted in person.
• Remote conduct of the proceeding would be infeasible because the court, the clerk, or other participant in a proceeding lacks the technological resources necessary to conduct the proceeding or, for reasons directly related to the state of emergency or the public health emergency, lacks the staff resources necessary to conduct the proceeding.
IV. SUSPENSION OF TIME PERIODS IN CERTAIN RULES OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE
B. Persons Arrested for First Degree Murder.14 With regard to persons arrested for first degree murder, all time periods under Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.133(b) and 3.134 shall remain suspended until such time as grand jury proceedings are resumed pursuant to Section III.A. The suspension of the time limits of Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.133(b) and 3.134 restores additional days equal to the number stated in the previous orders and this order.
C. Incompetence to Proceed.15 Where exigencies make it impossible to meet the 20-day time period in Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.210(b), chief judges of the circuit courts remain authorized to direct judges to hold competency hearings as soon as feasible after the date of filing a motion to determine competency. Chief judges also remain authorized to allow experts and attorneys to conduct and attend competency evaluations by remote means, if feasible.
V. DEFENDANTS ARRESTED ON WARRANT OR CAPIAS FROM ANOTHER FLORIDA JURISDICTION16To mitigate the health risks associated with the incarceration and transportation of defendants during the pandemic, when a defendant is arrested on a warrant or capias from another Florida jurisdiction, chief judges of the circuit courts remain encouraged to facilitate communication between the circuit or county where the case originated (“home court”) and the circuit or county where the defendant is incarcerated (“holding court”), for the handling of matters on a temporary basis, as follows:
For capiases and violation of probation warrants, before setting monetary bond or other conditions of pretrial release, the first appearance judge, in order to make a proper decision regarding monetary bond or other conditions of pretrial release, must rely on relevant information from the following individuals in the county that issued the capias or warrant: the issuing judge, defense counsel if any, and the state attorney.
Action taken by the holding court at first appearance and any pretrial release hearing should be promptly reported to the home court and reflected in the record of the case.
Any provision of Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.131 inconsistent with these measures remains suspended.
B. Pleas. Judges remain encouraged to coordinate with prosecutors, attorneys, defendants, and victims in order to utilize section 910.035, Florida Statutes, which allows for pleas of guilty or nolo contendere for persons arrested in counties outside of the county of prosecution, upon the consent of the defendant and the state attorney in the county where the crime was committed.
C. Rights of Parties. In cases that are not handled by a plea or pretrial release such that the defendant will continue to be detained in the jurisdiction of the holding court for an indefinite period of time, chief judges are directed to ensure that the due process rights of the defendant are protected by facilitating the temporary transfer of the case to the holding court, if necessary; by having a judge from the holding court designated by the Chief Justice, or designated by the chief judge if the home and holding court are within the same circuit, as a judge of the home court to handle emergency or other necessary matters in the case; or by other appropriate means.
D. Victims. The constitutional rights of crime victims must also be considered in all cases by the presiding judge.
VI. SPEEDY TRIAL PROCEDURE IN NONCRIMINAL TRAFFIC INFRACTION COURT PROCEEDINGS17All time periods involving the speedy trial procedure in noncriminal traffic infraction court proceedings remain suspended until 60 days after the chief judge of a judicial circuit has determined that the circuit or a county within the circuit has transitioned to Phase 2 pursuant to Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC20-32, Amendment 1, or 60 days after the effective date of this administrative order, whichever date is later. The suspension of time limits under the speedy trial procedure restores additional days equal to the number stated in the previous orders and this order.
VII. SUSPENSION OF TIME PERIODS IN CERTAIN SMALL CLAIMS RULESAll time periods referenced in Florida Small Claims Rule 7.090(b) that are applicable to the clerk of the court in small claims cases are suspended.
VIII. WRITS OF POSSESSION18The requirement in Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.580(a) for the clerk to issue a writ of possession “forthwith” remains suspended through June 30, 2020.
IX. FAMILY LAW FORMS19Except as indicated below, the requirement that Florida Family Law Forms be notarized or signed in the presence of a deputy clerk remains suspended, if the filer includes the following statement before the filer’s signature:
Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have read this document and the facts stated in it are true.This exception does not apply to Florida Family Law Forms 12.902(f)(1), Marital Settlement Agreement for Dissolution of Marriage with Dependent or Minor Child(ren), 12.902(f)(2), Marital Settlement Agreement for Dissolution of Marriage with Property but No Dependent or Minor Child(ren), 12.902(f)(3), Marital Settlement Agreement for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, and any other family law form that transfers the ownership of property, which must continue to be notarized or signed in the presence of a deputy clerk prior to filing.
X. VISITATION FOR CHILDREN UNDER THE PROTECTIVE SUPERVISION OF THE FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES (DCF)20Requirements for in-person visitation pursuant to circuit court orders entered under chapter 39, Florida Statutes, remain suspended. This order does not affect in-person visitations when all parties and the caregiver agree that the visitation can take place in a manner that does not pose a health threat.
In lieu of in-person visitation, visitation shall be conducted through electronic means with video communication as the preferred means, although telephonic contact is permitted if video communication is not feasible.
The suspension of in-person visitation applies to parent-child visitation, sibling visitation, and visitation between children and other family members and non-relatives.
If a party seeks to reinstate in-person visitation while the suspension of inperson visitation requirements remains in effect, such reinstatement shall be determined on a case-by-case basis by the circuit court with jurisdiction over that party’s case. Reinstatement of in-person visitation may be ordered if the court determines that it will not jeopardize the health, safety, and well-being of all children and adults (including caregivers) who will be affected by the in-person visitation.
Nothing in these provisions regarding visitation for children under the protective supervision of the DCF overrides existing circuit administrative orders to the extent that those orders are not in conflict with this order. Circuits may enter additional administrative orders addressing visitation and contact pursuant to chapter 39, Florida Statutes, to the extent that they are not in conflict with this order.
* * * * * * * * *Additional orders extending or modifying these measures will be issued as warranted by changing circumstances during the public health emergency.
DONE AND ORDERED at Tallahassee, Florida, on June 16, 2020.
|Chief Justice Jorge Labarga
|John A. Tomasino, Clerk of Court
John A. Tomasino, Clerk of Court