New 6th Circuit Court Protocols During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Florida Supreme Court has extended the suspension of all criminal and civil jury trials, among other proceedings, from April 17 through May 29 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That is the essence of the latest administrative order handed down Monday, April 6, by Chief Justice Charles T. Canady.
In the 14-page order, the chief justice took all of his prior administrative orders and consolidated them into one.
The Sixth Judicial Circuit has been providing a brief description of each of those orders along with a link to them. With the consolidation, we are only going to provide the link to the April 6 order, since all previous information is contained within it.
However, we will continue to provide information distributed by court administration in the Sixth Judicial Circuit regarding special proceedings created as a result of the pandemic, and links to orders by Anthony Rondolino, chief judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit.
As has been previously stated, although the courts remain open, our goal is to dramatically reduce the number of people reporting to the courthouses each day. Persons who do not have business in the court facilities are requested to refrain from coming into these buildings.
As has also been stated, whenever possible, all civil, family and probate proceedings are to be done by teleconference or by written submission of memorandum and that will remain in effect until further order of this Court.
At the same time, Chief Judge Rondolino is exploring establishing additional remote proceedings – either by using teleconferencing, or the use of Zoom, the video conferencing application – for the mission-critical hearings the Supreme Court has said must proceed, and which are as follows:
1. First appearance hearings, where a defendant appears before a judge within 24 hours of their arrest.
2. Criminal arraignments, where a defendant not in custody enters a plea, but only as necessary.
3. Bond motions for individuals in custody.
4. Detention hearings, where a judge has to decide whether a child should be held.
5. Shelter hearings, when a judge has to decide whether to remove a child from the home.
6. Hearings on petitions for temporary injunctions relating to the safety of an individual. (Beginning April 6, 2020, all violence injunction hearings in Pinellas were to be held in Courtroom One at the County Justice Center in Clearwater. Click www.jud6.org for more information).
7. Petitions by law enforcement agencies for risk-protection orders, where someone allegedly posing a threat to someone else or themselves risks losing temporary custody of their firearms.
8. Hearings on petitions for the appointment of an emergency temporary guardian.
9. Hearings to determine whether an individual should be involuntary committed under the state’s Baker or Marchman acts.
10. Hearings on petitions for extraordinary writs as necessary to protect constitutional rights.
11. Proceedings related to a violation of quarantine or isolation, a violation of an order to limit travel, a violation of public or private building closures, and a violation of a curfew. (On March 27, Judge Rondolino ordered that anyone who is arrested on a misdemeanor violation of the coronavirus quarantine will be held without bond at the jails in Pinellas and Pasco counties. Click here for the order. Sixth Judicial Circuit Administrative Order 2020-009)
While conducting these mission-critical proceedings, judges shall employ all methods practicable to minimize risk of COVID-19 exposure to the individuals involved in the proceedings and to the general public. All persons are requested to avoid unnecessary attendance for such essential proceedings.
A local chief judge may add other essential mission-critical proceedings to those listed above and it is anticipated that the chief judge here may issue a new local order including such matters.
In the meantime many civil, family and probate hearings and mediation sessions previously set may be held by the use of electronic means, primarily conference calls. Counsel or pro se parties should understand that the Supreme Court order does not permit in person hearings for non-essential proceedings.
In his April 6 order, Chief Justice Canady ruled that oaths may be administered remotely via audio-video technology; witnesses may be sworn in via video-conferencing; and any rules limiting the use of audio-video communication can be suspended.
Unfortunately, until further order of the court, proceedings not discussed above will be cancelled or suspended. This includes but is not limited to; traffic court hearings of all kinds, local ordinance violations, simplified divorces, small claims matters, mass dockets or calendar calls, small claims pre-trials and any court dockets that would have required the gathering of large numbers of people. Such matters will all need to be rescheduled and conducted after the pandemic emergency passes.
In his April 6 order, Chief Justice Canady also extended the suspension of all time periods involving the speedy trial procedure in criminal and juvenile court proceedings, as well as in non-criminal traffic infraction cases, from the close of business on April 20, to the close of business on June 1.
Under the speedy trial rule, anyone accused of a felony is entitled to be tried within 175 days of having been taken into custody, and anyone accused of a misdemeanor is entitled to be tried within 90 days of having been taken into custody.
Anyone Arrested For Violating Quarantine To Be Held Without Bond
Anyone who is arrested on a misdemeanor violation of the coronavirus quarantine will be held without bond at the jails in Pinellas and Pasco counties, according to an administrative order signed by Anthony Rondolino, chief judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit, on March 27, 2020.
Judge Rondolino’s order comes after the Florida Supreme Court instructed all judges in the state to take judicial steps related to any violation of orders governing quarantine or isolation, limits on travel, the closures of public and private buildings, and curfews, that have been put into effect after the governor declared a statewide public health emergency at the beginning of this month.
“To grant release on bail to persons isolated and detained on a quarantine order because they have a contagious disease which makes them dangerous to others, or to the public in general, would render quarantine laws and regulations nugatory and of no avail,” Judge Rondolino’s order states, quoting precedent.
The order applies to anyone who has violated Florida statute 381.00315, who is “reasonably believed to be infected” with the coronavirus or who is “reasonably believed to have been exposed” to it. The arresting officer is to notify the jail that the person is or could be infected before bringing them to the jail. The booking staff will then take appropriate measures to ensure the defendant doesn’t transmit the virus to anyone else at the jail while incarcerated. Judge Rondolino’s order, however, does not stop the judge before whom the defendant first appears following their arrest from modifying the no-bond status or addressing the situation in some other way.
For Violence Injunction Hearings
Due to concerns about the novel coronavirus, beginning April 6, 2020, and until further decision by the Sixth Judicial Circuit, all violence injunction hearings (domestic violence, dating, sexual, stalking, and repeat violence) filed in Pinellas County will be heard at Pinellas County Justice Center (PCJC) at 14250 49th St N, Clearwater, FL 33762, in Courtroom 1, 4th Floor. Cases previously scheduled for hearing on the violence injunction mass hearing dockets for a date after April 6, 2020, will be rescheduled and amended notices of hearing will be mailed. Parties are encouraged to update their addresses with the Clerk of Court so that they receive all documents mailed by the court. If you do not receive notice of the amended court date, you may contact the Clerk of Court to request a copy of the order. Please note that cases previously scheduled for hearing on the violence injunction mass hearing dockets during the weeks of March 23 and March 30 remain scheduled as previously noticed.
Sixth Judicial Circuit Administrative Orders Regarding Coronavirus:
|2020-008||3/17/20||Coronavirus Pandemic (Covid-19)|
|2020-009||3/27/20||Coronavirus Pandemic (Covid-19) - No Bond for Quarantine/Isolation Violation|
Sixth Judicial Circuit of Florida
In Florida, trial courts of general jurisdiction are aligned in 20 circuits. The Sixth Judicial Circuit serves citizens of Pasco and Pinellas counties. The circuit is comprised of two county courts, which have jurisdiction only in their home county, and a circuit court, with jurisdiction in both counties. All cases filed in these two counties are assigned to one of nine different court divisions.
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