Jury trials to remain suspended through mid-April

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread throughout the state, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady has extended the suspension of jury trials and other in-person court proceedings through April 17.

Canady’s order Tuesday extends deadlines in previous administrative orders aimed at complying with health officials’ recommendations to curb COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus. In a video message also released Tuesday, Canady addressed the impact of COVID-19 on the state’s justice system.

“We are all facing an unprecedented challenge. The pandemic is now affecting everyone. We are living our lives in a way that none of us would have contemplated a few short weeks ago,” the chief justice said. The pandemic “presents an extraordinary challenge for the legal system,” he added.

Health officials have recommended that people stop gathering in groups of 10 or more, and Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday said he would issue an order asking people age 65 or older and people with serious medical conditions to self-quarantine for two weeks. The legal system is based on “human interactions,” Canady said in the video.

“We are working to maintain that interaction while also minimizing the spread of the virus. I am confident that the courts, the legal profession, and all of our partners are up to the task.”

The chief justice’s order extends an earlier suspension of a variety of court procedures, including speedy trial rules. The order directs state courts to “cancel or postpone court proceedings other than essential and critical proceedings,” unless chief circuit judges determine that they can be conducted remotely.

The order includes other measures designed to minimize face-to-face contact in court proceedings, including suspending some notarization requirements.