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Reopening, Take 2?

Here's the headline from yesterday's Palm Beach Post: “Jury trials begin again in Palm Beach County as coronavirus infections continue to rise.” Palm Beach County will begin holding jury trials for both criminal and civil cases in the coming weeks. According to the chief judge, Krista Marx, “It's about sending the legal community and the community at large the message that we are stepping back into normalcy, cautiously and slowly.” Guidelines for the Supreme Court of Florida require that a county's positivity rate must be below 10% for two weeks to return to in-person proceedings. As of Monday, Palm Beach County's rate was down to 8.7%. The Post reports: “Across the state during the past two weeks, Florida has averaged 9.3%, nearly double the 5% needed to combat the spread of the virus.” The upcoming trials won't be for everyone. According to the Post: “Those who are not an immediate party to cases, such as extended family and other onlookers, will be told to...

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Virtual Courtrooms in Miami

This morning we received this notice from state court in Miami (the Eleventh Judicial Circuit) where we have a case pending: Coronavirus/COVID-19: Courthouses are closed for in-person hearings and trials based on public health advisories at the direction of the Florida Supreme Court. The Eleventh Judicial Circuit wants you safe at home.   We are establishing Virtual Courtrooms. Court hearings in your case that we can hold remotely via video or phone conference will be held on the Zoom platform, which is free to you. You will receive an email from the Court if we are proceeding with your hearing with the information you need to connect.

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Seeking Haven in the Sunshine State

With the weather in Washington turning cool and miserable, we look to the Sunshine State of Florida, where we thought we saw signs of reopening. The US District Court for the Southern District of Florida is following the local school systems, announcing: “In light of the announced reopening of public schools in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Monroe Counties, the United States District Courthouses in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Fort Pierce and Key West, including Bankruptcy and Probation, will reopen on Tuesday, November 10, 2020.” But, but, but…Chief Judge K. Michael Moore issued Administrative Order 2020-76, which provides, among other things: “All jury trials in the Southern District of Florida scheduled to begin on or after March 30, 2020, are continued until April 5, 2021. The Court may issue other Orders concerning future continuances as necessary and appropriate.” The April 2021 date is significantly further in the future...

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The Same Story: Jury Trials Suspended Again in Florida Circuit Court

As COVID-19 cases spike in most states, we’re seeing a familiar story, exemplified by Escambia County in Florida. WEAR-TV reports: “Jury trials have come to a halt in the [First Judicial Circuit Court of Florida] in Escambia County after a spike in COVID-19 cases. Jury trials had only restarted just a few weeks ago. However, the court was able to complete only five trials, as Chief Judge John Miller is ordering a suspension of trials for the next two weeks.” These stories tend to focus on state courts, because most federal courts never reopened at all.

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 McDermott’s litigation team monitors US courts as they reopen amid the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis.

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