Courts throughout Florida have been closed for most in-person hearings since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and they are unlikely to reopen. The courts have repeatedly pushed the date back for reopening, while the state continues to deal with the evolving health situation and cases of coronavirus continue to surge.
However, some courts have continued to have in-person hearings for emergency situations, and several Florida courts have continued to operate remotely. For anyone with an ongoing case, it’s critical to check on their case status regularly to make sure you don’t miss a hearing or other important deadlines.
In Volusia and Flagler Counties, Chief Judge Raul Zambrano of the Seventh Judicial Circuit suspended all jury trials, grand jury proceedings, and jury selection until July 20. All non-criminal, civil infraction proceedings were to remain suspended until that time. Court proceedings are limited to issues such as juvenile shelter and detention hearings, first appearances and bond hearings, and cases of domestic or sexual violence and emergencies.
In order to enter an open court facility in the Seventh Judicial District, individuals must comply with certain rules, such as:
S. James Foxman Justice Center in Daytona Beach moved to Phase 2 operations in mid-June as well as the Volusia County "Sunshine Mall" traffic court annex. The Clerk's office at the City Island Courthouse Annex in Daytona has limited public visits and in-person court proceedings to weekdays where they will still handle the following:
The clerk’s office in Deland will be providing all services that are normally available at Daytona Beach Courthouses The clerk’s office in DeLand has remained open to the public, they will continue to perform marriage ceremonies and accept criminal, traffic and child support payments at the walk up windows on the exterior of the building.
Florida Chief Justice Charles Canady has directed judges and court personnel to do all they can to uphold the constitutional rights of Floridians by continuing to operate while also striving to protect the health of court staff and the general public. This includes using technological options to enable remote proceedings. Florida courts are still holding all constitutionally mandated hearings, as well as “essential and critical trial court proceedings.”
In the Seventh Judicial Circuit for Flagler and Volusia counties, essential court hearings such as bond hearings, first appearances, and criminal arraignments can be held remotely, if possible or “in person” if necessary. Non-critical proceedings such as mediations, non-jury trials, and juvenile delinquency hearings.
Some circuit courts have also been testing virtual civil jury trials, such as the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court in Flagler and Volusia Counties.
Additionally, Florida’s online filing portal has continued to operate throughout the pandemic. The “e-Filing Portal” is what parties use for essential functions, such as obtaining court communications about their case and filing court documents. Since this system hasn’t been impacted by COVID-19, it’s critical to continue to meet any deadlines for your case.
While a large number of courts throughout Florida are continuing to operate in some fashion, they are adjusting to these new ways of working, which might delay many cases. For example, Florida’s Supreme Court canceled all sessions in April, which has delayed some cases that were originally planned for May or later.
In Florida state courts specifically, changes in court rules depend on the type of case. For instance, with first-degree murder cases, the state suspended policies that would allow defendants to be automatically released in 40 days if the prosecutor hadn’t yet filed a charge. The state also altered in-person requirements for some preliminary hearings.
While Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis has lifted the strictest stay-at-home orders for Florida and eased most statewide restrictions related to coronavirus, official guidance is still to socially distance, avoid closed spaces, and wear masks when possible. Additionally, Governor DeSantis has permitted local governments to adopt more rigorous orders.
The Florida Supreme Court created the Workgroup of the Continuity of Court Operations and Proceedings During and After COVID-19 to determine how courts throughout the state will safely resume operations.
So far, the group has issued guidance on topics, such as “Representing Yourself and Using Remote Appearance Technology with the Courts” and the “Management of Evidence in Remote Hearings in Civil and Family Cases.” However, they have not yet laid out when and how courts will fully reopen.
If you have an ongoing charge or case, it’s critical to work with a knowledgeable Florida attorney, who can help protect your legal rights and help you get the best possible information on the status of your case and the court handling your matter.
If you need assistance with your case during the ongoing pandemic, Rue & Ziffra is here to help you with your personal injury, workers compensation, medical malpractice, social security and long-term disability claims.
With over 40 years of experience serving clients throughout Daytona Beach, Port Orange, Deland, Palm Coast, and the surrounding areas, we have what it takes to tackle even the most challenging cases. Our trusted attorneys bring our in-depth knowledge and extensive courtroom experience to every case we take on. We want to do the same for you.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to get justice in your case. Let Rue & Ziffra do the hard work to get you the most up-to-date information on your case, help ensure you meet important court-ordered deadlines, and fight for your rights.
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