ABOTA Fort Lauderdale Court Updates and Video Hearing Project News
3.20.20: Chief Judge Tuter Issues Emergency Administrative Order Coronavirus Disease 2019
Highlights for the Circuit Civil Division Include:
"All mission critical court proceedings shall be conducted using communications equipment. Communications equipment means "a conference telephone or other electronic device that permits all those appearing or participating to hear and speak to each other, provided that all conversations of all parties is audible to all persons present." Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.530. Communications equipment also includes videoconferencing methods."
"All non-essential court proceedings are suspended and may only be performed if the presiding judge determines that the matter may effectively be conducted remotely using communications equipment. If the parties or their counsel do not wish to conduct their proceedings using communications equipment or do not have the capability to do so, the proceedings must be continued and rescheduled until at least April 20, 2020, unless all parties stipulate to the matter being determined based solely on the submission of written memoranda. Any such stipulation shall be evidenced by an agreement filed with the Clerk."
"All jury selection proceedings and criminal and civil jury trials are suspended during the period Monday, March 16, 2020, through April 17, 2020, except for those trials underway prior to the court's suspension of normal operations and as authorized by the Chief Judge."
"Until such time as the courts resume normal operations, in all county civil and circuit civil cases: (1) No default shall be entered by the Clerk of the Court. (2) No No court default may be sought unless submitted by motion to the presiding judge detailing exigent circumstances which may warrant judicial relief. In the event the presiding judge is unavailable, the matter shall be presented to the Administrative Judge of the County Court or the Administrative Judge of the Circuit Civil Division, as appropriate, and if either are unavailable, to the Chief Judge."
Hearing Video Conferencing: What ABOTA FTL Is Doing
(Updated 3.21.20) On March 20, 2020, the Chapter held an approximate 75 minute webinar on using Zoom with 29 attendees, including 5 Circuit Court Judges. As a result, Beta Testing of a video conference hearing protocol will start on Monday, March 23. This will include desktop, laptop and mobile app integration into special set and motion calendar hearing sessions before the Civil Division of the Circuit Court, all in an attempt to fulfill the Florida Supreme Court's directive to embrace technology to provide a continuity of legal services in the era of COVID-19.
As a result of that virtual conference, the following major ideas were shared:
1. Zoom videoconferencing is the preferred method of the Information Technology staff at the Courthouse.
2. Electronic calendar calls are a method that can be considered by the Circuit Civil Divisions to manage case scheduling.
3. Participating Judges are interested in testing video conferencing methods and technology.
4. The Florida Supreme Court has issued a temporary Administrative Order regarding swearing witnesses under oath. (See bottom of this page for full text).
5. Once video conferences are utilized, specific Division requirements need to be carefully monitored and followed by all attorneys and their staff. (See Division Requirements Section below).
6. Zoom privacy guidelines need to be reviewed with regard to legal proceedings involving the Court.
7. Lawyers can consider waiving personal appearances and allowing Judges to rule based upon submitted motions and papers only.
Placing Witnesses Under Oath Remotely
(Updated 3.21.20) On March 18, 2020, the Florida Supreme Court released Administrative Order 20-16. Here are the main points:
1. Notaries and other persons qualified to administer an oath in the State of Florida may swear a witness remotely by audio-video communication technology from a location within the State of Florida, provided they can positively identify the witness; and
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; and
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 communications equipment to administer oaths remotely or to witness the - 3 - attestation of family law forms, are hereby suspended, and will remain suspended until the expiration of the provisions of paragraph five in In Re: COVID-19 Emergency Procedures in the Florida State Courts, Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC20-13 (March 13, 2020), and any orders extending AOSC20-13.
The full text can be viewed in the PDF link above.
17th Judicial Circuit Division Requirements by Judge
Monitoring Division Requirements is essential in the COVID-19 Crisis. Here is the link for each Circuit Civil Division Judge.
Please note: Not all requirements are the same, and all requirements can change as the emergency goes forward. Watch for important updates on Video Conferencing procedures required by participating Judges.