BY JIM SAUNDERS
NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
TALLAHASSEE – Trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at courthouses across the state, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady on Monday extended a suspension of jury trials and many other in-person court proceedings through May.
“The Florida state courts have taken measures to mitigate the effects of this public health emergency upon the judicial branch and its participants,” Canady wrote in a 14-page order.
“To that end, I have issued several administrative orders implementing temporary measures essential to the administration of justice during the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.”
The order extended the suspension of criminal and civil jury trials, jury selection and grand-jury proceedings through May 29.
It said circuit and county courts will “continue to perform essential court proceedings,” such as first-appearance hearings and criminal arraignments, bail hearings for people in jail, juvenile-delinquency detention hearings and hearings to determine whether people should be involuntarily committed under the Baker Act.
“No proceedings or other court events other than essential proceedings and proceedings critical to the state of emergency or the public health emergency shall be conducted through in-person hearings,” Canady wrote.
The order also directed that other types of proceedings should be rescheduled, postponed or canceled unless they can be conducted by conference call or other technology that would prevent the need for in-person appearances.