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COVID-19 continues to change how we do business and that includes the judicial process. Miami-Dade’s 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida is the first of five judicial circuits in the state chosen by the Florida Supreme Court to test out using remote video technology. A report on the success of the pilot programs from the courts is due in October.

Watch the video with Attorney Joe Zarzaur and guest Attorneys Russell Dohan and Brandon Waas, as they review how this new trial process is ground breaking with details from the lawyer that helped make it happen. >

The trial is part of a pilot program where the Florida Supreme Court wants to see how handling trials remotely will work, and if it meets the required legal standards for due process. If successful, this could be implemented statewide and even nationwide.

Miami-Dade Chief Judge Bertila Soto said, “We are trying everything possible to make sure people have access to the courts.”

Administrative Judge Jennifer Bailey said, “That’s the challenge. To balance on one hand the constitutional right to trial by jury – to have your problems resolved by the court. And, we need to keep everybody safe especially during the course of recent weeks when the cases in Miami are surging.”

Both judges say COVID-19 has put the courts on the cutting edge, with thousands of hearings held over Zoom and people using smart phones to track their cases.

Jury Selection

Jurors were selected via Zoom, lawyers made opening statements wearing protective masks and the trial was streamed on YouTube.

The trial was live streamed on the Circuit’s YouTube channel as the courthouse is still officially closed to the public. Four camera views split the screen, showing the judge, lawyers, jury and the witness stand, which is surrounded by a plexiglass shield.

Miami-Dade Civil Administrative Judge Jennifer Bailey said the court was guided by advice from epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists when planning the in-person trial.

Strict Social Distance Protocols

At the courthouse, trial participants are under strict social distancing and safety guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Face masks are mandatory at all times and every person is spaced at least six feet apart. Instead of sitting in a jury box, jurors are spread out in the gallery — constantly maintaining six feet distance from everyone else. The court also provided all participants with face shields, gloves, individual evidence notebooks and hand sanitizer.

The effort is to continue to conduct civil trials during the COVID-19 Pandemic, The American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) has published a comprehensive guide to conducting civil jury trials during the COVID-19 pandemic. The white paper, “Guidance for Conducting Civil Jury Trials During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” is a resource to address the process of reopening courts and the many issues faced by the courts, the legal community, jurors and the public.

The Challenges and Successes?
Challenges –
– Technology glitches
– Ensuring people paying attention during jury selection (no use of cell phones, etc allowed)

Positives –
– Preparation made process smooth
– Public importance that the court system still needs jury trials that protect our 7th Amendment rights

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About Zarzaur Law, P.A.
Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. OUR AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Medical Malpractice, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.