In Florida, jury trials have been suspended since March 16, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While non-jury trials, may go forward, the courts have been careful in how they resume jury trials. Although constitutional limitations make it difficult to hold criminal proceedings remotely, the same is not true for civil proceedings.
On May 21, 2020, the Florida Supreme Court established a Remote Civil Jury Trial Pilot Program in Administrative Order AOSC20-31. Under the provisions of that Administrative Order, the Ninth Judicial Circuit was selected as one of only five (5) sites in the State for the Remote Civil Jury Trial Pilot Project.
As part of that Pilot Program, the Ninth Judicial Circuit is now seeking civil jury cases that meet the following five (5) criteria:
- Two (2) parties only;
- In-person jury selection may be accomplished in two (2) hours or less for each party;
- The evidentiary portion of trial can be completed remotely in less than two (2) days via Zoom, Teams or WebEx (instruction, closings and deliberations to occur in person);
- The case is ready for trial in July 2020; and,
- Both parties consent to a remote trial in the pilot project and waive any appellate issue as to the manner in which the case was tried.
The Administrative Order requires that the remote civil jury trials be completed in the month of July 2020 so the results, findings and recommendations can be reported to the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court by July 31, 2020.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ninth Judicial Circuit remained open and conducted most of its proceedings by videoconference or conference call.
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