Authored by Emily Pineless
During this unprecedented time, Florida state courts are actively trying to move cases along to avoid substantial backlog upon return to life post-quarantine. Although the Florida Supreme Court extended deadlines now through July 2, 2020, in response to COVID-19, the Court still encourages chief judges to maintain judicial workflow by conducting proceedings using technology. Thus, even though courts are physically closed for all proceedings unless deemed “essential and critical trial court proceedings,” Florida courts remain open, albeit remotely and with the use of new technology.
On May 4, 2020, Chief Justice Charles T. Canady entered a revised Administrative Order, No. AOSC20-23, which again promotes the use of technology to streamline cases in litigation, as grand jury proceedings, jury selection proceedings, and criminal and civil jury trials remain suspended until July 2, 2020. With regard to speedy trial procedures for criminal and juvenile cases, the court proceedings remain suspended through close of business on Monday, July 6, 2020.
To avoid any confusion, the Workgroup of the Continuity of Court Operations and Proceedings During and After COVID-19, a seventeen (17) member team appointed by the Florida Supreme Court, stated that the following proceedings may be conducted remotely: (1) alternative dispute resolution proceedings; (2) status hearings, case management, and pre-trial 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) juvenile delinquency hearings; (6) noncriminal traffic infraction hearings; (7) problem-solving court staffings, hearings, and wellness checks; and (8) non-jury trials for most cases, with some exceptions in the criminal, juvenile, and dependency cases.
The courts, however, have not specified a required medium to be used for “non-essential court proceedings.”. Instead, each judge selects the preferred medium (i.e., CourtCall, Zoom Conference, WebEx), which can typically be found by searching each judge’s procedures. Thus, court appearances are still viable during COVID-19 and while practicing social distancing measures. In fact, for the first time in history, the Florida Supreme Court plans to hold oral arguments by video teleconference beginning on May 6, 2020. Thus, Florida courts are strongly encouraged to remotely conduct the aforementioned proceedings to greatest extent possible as we continue to battle the pandemic, COVID-19.
When it comes to court filings, Florida’s free electronic filing portal (“e-Filing Portal”) has not been impacted by COVID-19, which means that parties may continue to file court documents, electronically serve parties, and obtain electronic communications from the courts about the case, just as they did prior to COVID-19. As such, parties may still meet deadlines pursuant to the Florida Rules of Procedure and appeals must still be timely filed. The Florida courts have encouraged those self-represented individuals to register with the E-Filing Portal, since in person paper filings are presently suspended. Further, individuals may still request records from the Clerk & Comptroller in Florida counties, but should do so electronically.
Although Florida courts are predominately operating remotely for “non-essential court proceedings,” there are certain proceedings which have been completely suspended due to COVID-19. For example, in April 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis executed an Executive Order which suspended for forty-five (45) days evictions and foreclosures in the State of Florida. Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Congress also enacted a temporary moratorium on eviction filings and prohibited landlords of certain rental “covered dwellings” from charging fees, penalties, or other charges to the tenant for nonpayment of rent for 120 days since CARES Act was enacted on March 27, 2020. Additionally, such landlords must provide tenants at least 30 days' notice to vacate the property, but landlords cannot issue a notice to vacate during the 120-day period. The CARES Act also established a foreclosure moratorium, whereby a servicer of federally backed mortgage loans for residential real property cannot initiate any foreclosure, move for a foreclosure judgment or order of sale, or execute a foreclosure-related eviction for at least 60-days beginning on March 18, 2020. For those borrowers with federally-backed mortgage loans, they may contact their loan servicer to request forbearance for up to 180-days if their financial hardship is due to COVID-19. During the forbearance period, no fees, penalties, or interest beyond the amount scheduled or calculated are allowed.
In other instances, such as service of process, some Florida courts have allowed the Sherriff to stay execution of writs of possession, levies, replevins, writs of garnishments, regular summonses, legal documents, mental health documents, paid papers, out-of-state orders, tax deeds, etc. Certified process servers, however, may still serve civil process, but are required to practice social distancing. Since each jurisdiction is different, and procedures continue to evolve during this time, it is best to continue to review each court’s orders regarding COVID-19.
Below we have set forth links to the COVID information for the larger Florida circuit trial courts and federal district courts in Florida. We have also included links to the Florida appellate courts, the federal appellate courts, and the United States Supreme Court.
Florida State Circuit Trial Courts
- 1st Circuit (Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton)
- 2nd Circuit (Leon)
- 3rd Circuit (Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee, Taylor)
- 4th Circuit (Duval)
- 5th Circuit (Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion, Sumter)
- 6th Circuit (Pasco, Pinellas)
- 7th Circuit (Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns, Volusia)
- 8th Circuit (Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy, Union)
- 9th Circuit (Orange)
- 10th Circuit (Hardee, Highlands, Polk)
- 11th Circuit (Miami-Dade)
- 12th Circuit (DeSoto, Manatee, Sarasota)
- 13th Circuit (Hillsborough)
- 14th Circuit (Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Washington)
- 15th Circuit (Palm Beach)
- 16th Circuit (Monroe)
- 17th Circuit (Broward)
- 18th Circuit (Brevard, Seminole)
- 19th Circuit (Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, Saint Lucie)
- 20th Circuit (Charlotte, Collier, Glades Hendry, Lee)
Florida State Appellate District Courts
- First District Court of Appeal
- Second District Court of Appeal
- Third District Court of Appeal
- Fourth District Court of Appeal
- Fifth District Court of Appeal
Federal Appellate Circuit Courts
- Federal Circuit Court of Appeals
- First Circuit Court of Appeals
- Second Circuit Court of Appeals
- Third Circuit Court of Appeals
- Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
- Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
- Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals
- Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals
- Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals
- Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
- Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals
- Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals
Florida Federal District Courts