Chief Judge Anthony Rondolino to Design Plan For More Court Proceedings; Courthouses Remain Open
The chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court issued a series of memoranda and administrative orders on Thursday, May, 21, 2020, directing chief judges in all 20 circuits in the state to design a plan to begin a step-by-step return to the way court proceedings were held before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, courts across the state are in Phase 1, where all jury trials are on hold, in-person contact is inadvisable, and in-person proceedings are rare. Charles T. Canady, chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court, is now asking all chief judges to come up with a plan to progress to what is called Phase 2, where limited in-person contact would be authorized for certain purposes, as long as protective measures, such as masks, the availability of hand sanitizer, and social distancing, were available or in place. Anthony Rondolino, the chief judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit, is currently working on a plan for Phase 2, and we will make it available as soon as it is complete. Before there is any transition to Phase 2, however, there can be no confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 in a court facility within a 14-day period; any local or state restrictive or stay-at-home orders have to be rescinded; there has to be evidence of improving COVID-19 health conditions over a 14-day period, such as a downward trajectory of positive tests; there has to be an increase in the availability of COVID-19 tests, and emerging antibody testing; and whatever plan is put together has to be done so after the chief judge consults with, among others, the clerk of courts, the state attorney, the public defender, and the local sheriff’s office. There is also a Phase 3 in the chief justice’s plan, and a Phase 4, which would be a complete return to normalcy. Here are the links to the two Florida Supreme Court administrative orders that are most on point.
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 May 29 through July 2, 2020, according to an amended version of an administrative order issued previously by Chief Justice Charles T. Canady. In the amended version, issued on May 4, the chief justice also extended the suspension of all time periods involving the speedy trial procedure from June 1 through July 6 for all criminal and juvenile court proceedings.
Here is the amended order in its entirety. Florida Supreme Court Administrative Order 2020-23
Much of the chief justice’s May 4 amended order reiterates past actions such as the suspension of jury trials, while pushing out by weeks how long they will be in effect. And it re-lists those types of proceedings that must continue despite the pandemic, such as bond hearings. But the amended order also introduces a list of hearing types the chief justice says can be conducted remotely. They are as follows:
1. Alternative dispute resolution proceedings, also known as mediations
2. Status, case management, and pretrial conferences in all case types
3. Non-evidentiary and evidentiary motion hearings in all case types
4. Arraignments and pleas in absentia in county court misdemeanor cases
5. Hearings in juvenile delinquency cases
6. Hearings in noncriminal traffic infraction cases
7. Problem-solving court staffings, hearings, and wellness checks, and
8. Non-jury trials in all case types, except for criminal, juvenile delinquency and termination of parental rights petitions in dependency cases unless the parties in an excepted case agree to the remote conduct of a non-jury trial.
Since the Florida Supreme Court’s first administrative order suspending jury trials was put into effect as a result of COVID-19, Anthony Rondolino, chief judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit, has worked with the circuit’s court technology office to arrange for certain proceedings to be conducted remotely, either through teleconferencing or video conferencing (click here for a list of protocols for attending a video hearing in the Sixth Judicial Circuit). These include civil, family, and probate hearings, along with mediation sessions and those types of hearings the supreme court now says should be conducted remotely. Please contact the assigned family, civil or probate judge’s office, or magistrate or hearing officer’s office to request to schedule a hearing as many hearings are going forward using remote technology.
Judges have also been using remote technology (click here for a list of protocols for attending a video hearing in the Sixth Judicial Circuit) for so called mission-critical hearings, which the supreme court has always maintained must continue during the pandemic. The mission-critical hearings 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).
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.)
While conducting these mission-critical proceedings, judges have employed all methods practicable to minimize risk of COVID-19 exposure to the individuals involved in the proceedings and to the general public, including social distancing. All persons are requested to avoid unnecessary attendance for such essential proceedings.
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.
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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