At this time, effective vaccines for COVID-19 are adequately available in Florida for persons ages 12 and older; almost half of this state’s population has been partially or fully vaccinated; and government-issued health standards and guidance provide that fully vaccinated persons do not need to wear face masks or physically distance in most indoor and outdoor settings unless required by federal, state, or local laws, rules, or regulations.2 Given these developments, the judicial branch can now transition to operations where in-person contact is more broadly authorized.
This order establishes new, temporary health and safety protocols and emergency operational measures and extends and modifies previously enacted temporary emergency operational measures for purposes of mitigating the effects of the public health emergency on the judicial branch and its participants during and after the emergency. The protocols and measures shall take effect at 12:01 a.m. on June 21, 2021, and shall remain in effect until amended or terminated by subsequent order. The following three administrative orders shall terminate at 12:01 a.m. on June 21, 2021: (1) In re: Comprehensive COVID-19 Emergency Measures for Florida Trial Courts, Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC20-23, Amendment 13; (2) In re: COVID-19 Public Health and Safety Precautions for Operational Phase Transitions, Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC20-32, Amendment 8; and (3) In re: Comprehensive COVID-19 Emergency Measures for Florida Appellate Courts, Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC20-109, Amendment 2.
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. HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS
(2) A court that does not implement the health and safety protocols required under Section I.B. on June 21, 2021, must:
b. Provide notice on its website indicating that the court continues to operate pursuant to its Phase 2 operational plan and indicating the date that the court intends to implement the health and safety protocols required under Section I.B. or alternative health and safety protocols.
(2) Participants may request to be physically distanced.6 The court will address such requests as appropriate under the circumstances at the time of the request.
II. EMERGENCY OPERATIONAL MEASURESThe following provisions govern remote and in-person conduct of appellate and trial court proceedings, as applicable, beginning on June 21, 2021. All in-person court proceedings must be conducted in a manner consistent with Section I.
(2) To maximize the availability of facility space for trial court proceedings that must be conducted in person, each chief judge of a judicial circuit should take all necessary steps to support the remote conduct of other trial court 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.8
(3) Participants who have the capability of participating by electronic means in remote appellate or trial court proceedings must do so.9 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.10
(4) All rules of procedure, court orders, and opinions applicable to court proceedings that limit or prohibit the use of communication equipment for the remote conduct of proceedings shall remain suspended.11
(5) The Chief Justice and chief judges remain authorized to establish procedures for the use, to the maximum extent feasible, of communication equipment for the remote conduct of proceedings to facilitate the efficient and expeditious processing of cases.12
(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.14
(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 communication technology to administer oaths remotely or to witness the attestation of family law forms shall remain suspended.15
(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.16
(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 communication technology for purposes of readily identifying the witness or new attorney.17
(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.
(2) Jury and Other Proceedings.
b. Hearings to determine whether an individual should be involuntarily committed under the Baker Act or the Marchman Act must be conducted in person unless that individual waives the right to physical presence at the hearing.
ii. Criminal jury selection proceedings or trial proceedings if:
2. 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 proceeding with the defendant and have concluded that the defendant has knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently agreed to the remote conduct of the proceeding; and
3. The prosecutor indicates the State’s and, if applicable, the victim’s positions orally on the record regarding remote conduct of the proceeding for purposes of consideration by the presiding judge in determining whether to remotely conduct the proceeding.
c. The cases selected for a remote jury proceeding must be based upon the case being conducive to a remote proceeding and 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.
d. Within 30 days after the remote conduct of a jury selection proceeding or trial proceeding for the first time in a judicial circuit, the circuit must present the results of the proceeding and report its findings and recommendations to the Chief Justice through the state courts administrator.
ii. Termination of parental rights and juvenile delinquency cases may be conducted remotely if ordered by the chief judge or the presiding judge or, if not, must be conducted in person.
b. Circuit and county criminal trials with an in-custody defendant.
c. Circuit trials for juveniles being tried as an adult.
d. Juvenile delinquency trials.
e. Circuit and county criminal trials with an out-of-custody defendant.
f. Termination of parental rights trials.
g. Circuit civil jury trials.
h. County civil jury trials.
i. All other trial court proceedings.
b. Are encouraged, where consistent with public health and safety, 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. Consistent with Section II.E.(5), the scheduling of trials in criminal cases should be prioritized to facilitate the prompt resolution of these cases.
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.
2. Streamlined civil cases must 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:
non-complex issues related to liability and damages;
few anticipated pretrial motions;
limited need for discovery;
minimal documentary evidence; and
an anticipated trial length of less than two days.
2. Subject to a statutory stay or a moratorium preventing the prosecution of the case, the case management order must be issued in a case filed:
■ Before April 30, 2021, by December 3, 2021, within 45 days after the stay or the moratorium ends, or within 30 days after service of the complaint on the last of all named defendants, whichever date is later. The case management order must address each deadline identified under Section II.E.(7)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.
■ Before April 30, 2021, the case management order must be issued by December 3, 2021. The case management order must address each deadline identified under Section II.E.(7)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 II.E.(7)b. was required to 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 must be submitted to the chair of the workgroup within seven days after the amendment is issued.
ii. January 3, 2022, for persons who were taken into custody on or after March 14, 2020.
ii. Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.191(l) is modified to authorize a court to order an extension of the time periods provided under the rule for the following exceptional circumstances: general congestion of the court’s docket, a lack of courtroom space, an unavailability of jurors, or a personnel shortage for public defenders, state attorneys, clerks of court, or the courts.
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.
Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have read this document and the facts stated in it are true.
(14) Objections to In-Person Visitation for Children under the Protective Supervision of the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). A caregiver for a child subject to the protective supervision of the DCF may object to the in-person nature of a visitation on grounds that risks due to COVID-19 will negatively affect the health or safety of a person participating in the visitation or of a member of that person’s household. The court must consider such objection and responses thereto before entering an order on visitation. This section applies to parent-child visitation, sibling visitation, and visitation between children and other family members and non-relatives.
* * *Additional orders extending or modifying these measures will be issued as warranted to mitigate the effects of the public health emergency on the judicial branch and its participants.
DONE AND ORDERED at Tallahassee, Florida, on June 4, 2021.
|Chief Justice Charles T. Canady
|John A. Tomasino, Clerk of Court
John A. Tomasino, Clerk of Court