During this unexpected coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the Wheels of Justice must continue to turn.
The Miami-Dade Courts are considered an ‘essential function’ and have been working to implement technology to help us provide full access to the Justice System without requiring individuals to come to court during the declared Public Health Emergency.
Following guidance issued by the Florida Supreme Court and state and local governments, the courts have been closed for in-person hearings since March 16, 2020 to reduce the risk of person-to-person transmission of COVID-19. Legal deadlines have been extended through June 1, 2020.
At first, only emergency and “mission critical” court matters were being heard – such as bond hearings and petitions for domestic violence restraining orders. These were conducted by phone or video appearance as much as possible given what technology adaptations we were able to make on very short notice.
Since then, Zoom was selected as the “virtual courtroom” platform for all Florida courts. Zoom licenses, equipment and training have been provided to judges and key staff, and new procedures are being implemented to transition from in-person to virtual courts.
Zoom is free, with video conferencing capabilities via any Internet-connected device and audio capabilities via phone. We encourage everyone who may be appearing “virtually” in court to take advantage of the free Zoom training.
More judges are completing their training and starting to hold virtual court hearings on Zoom. The platform allows the judge, clerks, attorneys, litigants, court reporters, court interpreters and any other party to appear at a hearing. Last week, the first Zoom adoption proceeding took place in Judge Jason Dimitris’ Courtroom, with more than 10 participants all Zoom-ing in! This was a joyous occasion and a sign of the ever-evolving role of technology in the courts.
We encourage everyone to visit the Miami-Dade Courts’ website at www.jud11.flcourts.org and on social media @miamidadecourts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for updates. That website also has a judicial directory that links to each judge’s individual page, which contains important information on their policies and procedures and their contact information. If anyone has questions about an upcoming court date, they should call the presiding judge’s office.
Access to the courts is the cornerstone of the Justice System and with that in mind, the Miami-Dade Courts have been tirelessly working on these new virtual court procedures to provide safe access to the courts.
Stay Safe and Stay Healthy.