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 pandemic2 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 – in-person contact is authorized for certain purposes but requires use of protective measures;
c) Phase 3 – an effective vaccine is adequately available and in use and inperson contact is more broadly authorized; 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, by Florida Rules of General Practice and Judicial Administration 2.205(a)(2)(B)(iv) and 2.205(a)(2)(B)(v), and by Rule Regulating the Florida Bar 1-12.1(j),
IT IS ORDERED that:
I. GUIDING PRINCIPLES
B. To maintain judicial workflow to the maximum extent feasible, chief judges shall take all necessary steps to support the remote conduct of proceedings with the use of technology, in accordance with this administrative order and other applicable standards and guidance as may be adopted by the Chief Justice or supreme court. Participants who have the capability of participating by electronic means in remote proceedings shall do so. For purposes of this administrative order, “remote conduct,” “remotely 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 may do so. Judges and court personnel who work in the courthouse shall do so in a manner that is consistent with the circuit’s operational plan required by Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC20-32, as amended.
II. USE OF TECHNOLOGY
B. The chief judge of 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 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.
(2) In a law school practice program, the requirement in Rule 11-1.2(b) of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar that an indigent person and the supervising attorney must consent in writing to representation by a supervised law student may be satisfied by the judge receiving the consent verbally under oath.
III. TRIAL COURT PROCEEDINGSThe following provisions govern the conduct of trial court proceedings during Phases 1 through 3, except as modified by Section IX., addressing reversions to a previous phase by a circuit or a county within the circuit.
ii. The circuit is operating in Phase 2 or Phase 3 pursuant to Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC20-32, as amended, and the proceeding is conducted in a manner that is consistent with the circuit’s operational plan.
(3) Additional days equal to the number of days for which grand jury proceedings are suspended shall be restored to the term of the impaneled statewide grand jury or other impaneled grand jury; however, the number of days restored may not exceed the number of days the impaneled grand jury had remaining in its term when the suspension began.
b. Criminal jury trials if:
ii. Counsel for the defendant, if the defendant is represented, indicates orally on the record that they have discussed the potential advantages and disadvantages of remote conduct of the trial with the defendant and have concluded that the defendant has knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently agreed to the remote conduct of the trial; and
iii. The prosecutor indicates the State’s and, if applicable, the victim’s positions orally on the record regarding remote conduct of the trial for purposes of consideration by the presiding judge in determining whether to remotely conduct the trial.
(3) The cases selected for a remote jury trial must be:
b. Conducted pursuant to the requirements specified in the report titled Requirements and Evaluation Criteria – Remote Civil and Criminal Jury Trials and other applicable standards and guidance as may be adopted by the Chief Justice or supreme court.
(5) To conduct any portion of a remote jury trial in person:
b. The circuit or a county within the circuit must be operating in Phase 2 or Phase 3 pursuant to Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC20-32, as amended, and the proceeding must be conducted in a manner that is consistent with the circuit’s operational plan.
(2) Shall create a process whereby the:
ii. 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;
iii. Must care for a child or relative whose regular care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19; or
iv. Is receiving leave pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
ii. Has suffered a financial or personal loss due to COVID-19 that makes it a hardship to perform jury service.9, 10
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) In Phase 1 and Phase 2, essential and critical trial court proceedings shall be conducted remotely, unless the chief judge or presiding judge, in consultation with the chief judge, determines that it is necessary to conduct the proceeding in person. If the circuit or county within a circuit is operating in Phase 1, in-person conduct of a proceeding may occur if the chief judge, in consultation with the county health department or local health expert, determines that the inperson proceeding can be conducted in a manner that protects the health and safety of all participants. If the circuit or county within a circuit is operating in Phase 2, in-person conduct of a proceeding must be consistent with the circuit’s operational plan.
(4) 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.
(2) Non-jury trials in:
b. 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.
b. 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.
(2) Circuit and county criminal trials with an in-custody defendant.
(3) Circuit trials for juveniles being tried as an adult.
(4) Juvenile delinquency trials.
(5) Circuit and county criminal trials with an out-of-custody defendant.
(6) Termination of parental rights trials.
(7) Circuit civil jury trials.
(8) County civil jury trials.
(9) All other trial court proceedings.
2. Streamlined civil cases shall be identified based on criteria determined by the chief judge and specified in the administrative order. Criteria that the chief judge may wish to consider for the identification of streamlined cases include whether the case involves: few parties; non-complex issues related to liability and damages; few anticipated pretrial motions; limited need for discovery; few witnesses; minimal documentary evidence; and an anticipated trial length of less than two days.
3. General civil cases are all other civil cases.
2. Was filed before April 30, 2021, the case management order shall be issued within 30 days of service of the complaint on the last of all named defendants or by May 28, 2021, whichever date is later. The case management order shall address each deadline identified under Section III.G.(1)a.ii. and the projected date for trial if such event has not yet occurred in the case or has not yet been specified by other court order.
c. Each administrative order issued by the chief judge pursuant to this section and written civil case management protocol described in Section III.G.(1)b. shall be submitted to the chair of the Workgroup on the Improved Resolution of Civil Cases, as established by In Re: Workgroup on Improved Resolution of Civil Cases, Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC19-73 (Oct. 31, 2019), by May 7, 2021. If subsequently amended, the administrative order or protocol shall be submitted to the chair of the workgroup within seven days after the amendment is issued.
(3) Are encouraged, where consistent with public health and safety and the circuit’s operational plan, to:
b. Reassign judges and court staff to proceedings having the highest priority;
c. Implement scheduling practices that promote the conduct of as many jury trials as feasible; and
d. Communicate to the local Bar that lawyers must strictly comply with Florida Rule of General Practice and Judicial Administration 2.545(a), which requires lawyers to conclude litigation as soon as it is reasonably and justly possible to do so, and that the pandemic alone is not a basis for a lawyer’s failure to prepare a case for trial or otherwise actively manage a case.
IV. SUSPENSION OF TIME PERIODS IN CERTAIN RULES OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE
(2) When the suspension ends and the time periods resume in a circuit or county within a circuit:
b. Each of the 10-day time periods in Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.191(p)(3) and Fla. R. Juv. P. 8.090(m)(3) shall be increased to 30 days until such time as the circuit or county within a circuit has transitioned to Phase 4.
(2) Be suspended during any period of time in which grand jury proceedings are suspended under Section III.A.(1)b. or IX.B. When the suspension ends and the time periods resume, any time that accrued under the rules for a person before the suspension began on March 13, 2020, shall be subtracted from the time periods provided by the rules.
V. DEFENDANTS ARRESTED ON WARRANT OR CAPIAS FROM ANOTHER FLORIDA JURISDICTION18To 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 PROCEEDINGS19The time period involving the speedy trial procedure in noncriminal traffic infraction court proceedings shall remain suspended. When the suspension ends and the time period resumes, any time that accrued under the procedure for a person before the suspension began on March 13, 2020, shall be subtracted from the time period provided by the procedure.
VII. FAMILY LAW FORMS20Except Except 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.
VIII. VISITATION FOR CHILDREN UNDER THE PROTECTIVE SUPERVISION OF THE FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES (DCF)21Requirements 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.
IX. REVERSION TO A PREVIOUS PHASEIf a circuit or a county within the circuit reverts to a previous phase, as addressed in Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC20-32, as amended, the following provisions govern.
(2) Were commenced before the reversion may proceed to completion in person if the chief judge determines that completion of the proceeding without delay is required by the interests of justice and determines, in consultation with the county health department or local health expert, that the in-person proceeding can be conducted in a manner that protects the health and safety of all participants. The requirements of the double jeopardy clause must be considered in criminal proceedings.
C. Speedy Trial. If a circuit or a county within the circuit reverts from Phase 3 to Phase 1 or Phase 2, all time periods involving the speedy trial procedure in criminal and juvenile court proceedings are suspended until 90 days after the Chief Justice has approved the recertification of a chief judge of a judicial circuit that the circuit or county within the circuit has returned to Phase 3 pursuant to Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC20-32, as amended. When the suspension ends and the time periods resume:
(2) Each of the 10-day time periods in Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.191(p)(3) and Fla. R. Juv. P. 8.090(m)(3) shall be increased to 30 days until such time as the circuit or county within a circuit has transitioned to Phase 4.
* * *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 March 26, 2021.
|Chief Justice Charles T. Canady
|John A. Tomasino, Clerk of Court
John A. Tomasino, Clerk of Court