Court activity is seriously impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Trials are delayed, courthouses are limiting their activity and the whole legal profession is affected by the restrictions.
The impact of the pandemic has been swift across business, government, and everyday lives. Remote working, shuttered businesses and a massive shock to the stock market define this period. The responses coming from local, state, and federal authorities are varied. Some states imposed drastic restrictions, while others have a more lax approach to the pandemic. Nonetheless, the legal system is negatively affected by the ongoing crisis. Law firms, court reporting firms, and other professionals have seen a loss in revenue and fewer cases. Even the most trusted court reporters in Miami are seeing drastic drops in revenue and activity during these few months.
But how are courts around the country responding to the COVID-19 pandemic? Let’s take a closer look:
The impact on federal courts
Federal courts are affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Most of them are increasingly using remote communication and focus on essential personnel only. However, the courts are not completely closed. The courts still have daily activity, but their workload is reduced. In many cases, the federal courts handle only emergency or high-stake cases. Here is a brief summary of how the federal courts are affected:
– the number of case filings have not dropped significantly over the last few months when compared year-over-year; this shows that litigants are moving forward with the planned litigation;
– case activity is down; data suggests that terminations, solutions, and findings are lower year-over-year; this suggests that even though filings are moving forward, the courts have limited ability in handling these cases; law firms, court reporting firms, and even the most trusted court reporters in Miami are also affected by the reduced court activity;
– the social changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic is visible in federal courthouse activity; courts receive many cases related to social issues caused by the pandemic;
– some practice areas are more affected than others: antitrust cases dropped 62 percent, copyright cases dropped 40 percent, environmental cases dropped 52 percent, trade secret and trademark dropped 20 percent; some practice areas have seen a rise in activity – product liability went up by 50 percent, securities by 10 percent and patent cases by 15 percent.
The impact on state courts
All states have imposed restrictions in an effort to reduce the negative effects of the ongoing pandemic. However, the restrictions are varied. When it comes to the legal system, virtually all states closed state courts until at least June 1st. Only emergency cases are handled. The cases that are still handled are usually the ones that cannot be resolved through a telephonic or videoconference hearing. In some cases, court reporting firms are employed in order to provide adequate video conference services.
Some courts, however, are completely closed during this period. If possible, the staff is working remotely, but the activity is very limited. These courts do not accept new case filings and all ongoing trials are delayed. Because of the restrictions, some in-progress trials have been declared as mistrials. Civil and criminal bench trials are delayed to at least June 1st, depending on the jurisdiction.
The impact on county courts in Florida
Courts across Florida have imposed drastic measures to fight the coronavirus pandemic. In many cases, videoconference services are recommended, and only trusted court reporters in Miami should be used. Here’s a brief guide:
– First Judicial Circuit – Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Walton Counties – all dates are extended to June 1st; hearings and all procedures in child support, circuit civil, county civil, civil traffic, probate and family cases are not considered mission-critical and will be postponed, rescheduled or canceled unless they can be conducted using electronic or telephonic means; in-person appearances are not permitted;
– Second Judicial Circuit – Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla Counties – all courts are advised to implement remote working and reschedule non-critical proceedings; mediation will be conducted via video conference or telephone service;
– Third Judicial Circuit – Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee, and Taylor Counties – all jury trials are suspended; non-essential proceedings will be held remotely, via telephonic or video conference;
– Fourth Judicial Circuit – Clay, Duval and Nassau Counties – all criminal and civil jury trials, grand jury proceedings and juror qualifications are suspended until July 2nd; all hearings will be conducted via telephone or video conference means; Zoom and Skype will be used for this type of communication;
– Fifth Judicial Circuit – Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion, and Sumter Counties – all non-essential hearings will be conducted electronically; all other restrictions follow Florida Supreme Court directives;
– Sixth Judicial Circuit – Pasco and Pinellas Counties – all criminal and civil jury trials and all related proceedings are postponed until July 2nd; all other restrictions follow Florida Supreme Court directives;
– Seventh Judicial Circuit – Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns, and Volusia Counties – all mission-critical proceedings will take place, but only remotely, via telephonic or videoconference services; all hearings and proceedings deemed necessary will be conducted remotely; all other restrictions follow Florida Supreme Court directives;
– Eighth Judicial Circuit – Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union Counties – all jury trials are suspended until July 2nd; in-person preliminary hearings will be done only for first-degree murder cases; all court events and proceedings should be done remotely, via electronic means, without any in-person court appearances; all other restrictions follow Florida Supreme Court directives;
– Ninth Judicial Circuit – Orange and Osceola Counties – all jury selection proceedings, criminal and civil trials are suspended through July 2nd; all other restrictions follow Florida Supreme Court directives;
– Tenth Judicial Circuit – Hardee, Highlands and Polk Counties – similar to Ninth Judicial Circuit (see above)
– Eleventh Judicial Circuit – Miami-Dade County – non-emergency court proceedings will only be done via telephone or video conference; all deadlines are suspended until June 1st; all other restrictions follow Florida Supreme Court directives;
– Twelfth Judicial Circuit – Hillsborough County – all petit jury selection proceedings, criminal and civil jury trials are suspended until further notice; small claims cases will be handled via teleconferencing; all non-critical matters will be conducted via teleconferencing; mediation will be done in-person, but a distance of 6 feet will be maintained between people during the proceedings.
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