Emergency Procedures Pretaining to COVID-19 and Administrative Orders Currently in Place
Effective March 27, 2020
SCHEDULE WILL REMAIN IN PLACE RELATED TO JUDGE DEES AND DIVISION J, pending further notice:
Pursuant to AOS20-13 and ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER 2020-4.2,
- The following matters are identified as “Mission Essential: cases, as it pertains to this division:
- Juvenile Dependency Shelter Hearings;
- Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) Advisory Hearings;
- Hearings on Petitions for Parental Waiver of Notice; and
- Juvenile Delinquency Detention Hearings.
- The following “in person” mass docket is suspended, as it pertains to this division:
Juvenile Dependency dockets (traditional “Tuesday dockets”)
- All transport orders to/from the Manatee County Judicial Center have been rescinded, until further order of court, therefore no parents, presently in custody, are permitted to be transported to court for his/her hearing(s).
- All judges have been directed to reschedule, postpone, or cancel all non-mission-essential proceedings, unless the proceeding can be effectively conducted using telephonic or other electronic means. As it pertains to Division J – this would include the cancelation of any evidentiary motion scheduled on JACS (traditional Wednesday motion hearings (non-emergency by nature)) or any evidentiary hearing specially scheduled on a Thursday or Friday by my Judicial Assistant.
- With the understanding these policies will likely change, as this pandemic continues to evolve in Florida, it is my intent to provide as much guidance as possible to the attorneys, parents, children, caregivers and stakeholders appearing in Manatee County, Florida, Dependency Division J, between March 27, 2020 and April 17, 2020, as follows:
- Shelter Review Hearings scheduled on Monday, March 30, 2020, at 9:30 am will be reviewed by either Judge Maulucci or Judge Dees in Courtroom 4B. All parties may appear in person.
- Shelter Hearings. Except when Judge Maulucci or I am assigned as the duty judge – any other judge will be handling shelter hearings at 8:00 am in Courtroom 2A. Chief Judge Bonner recently signed an AO designating all county and circuit judges as juvenile judges in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, no shelter review hearings will be required. If a parent’s attorney is demanding an evidentiary hearing, the parties will be referred to the next available Wednesday hearing date with Judge Maulucci presiding.
- TPR Advisory Hearings.
- I have been assigned as the duty judge on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 and Tuesday April 14, 2020, which means I will be at the Manatee County Judicial Center, from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm to handle certain mission essential proceedings, to include First Appearances, Shelter hearings and Detention hearings. This means, I will be able to address, personally, other mission essential proceedings, such as TPR Advisory Hearings. The Advisory Hearings will be heard in Courtroom 4B beginning as close to 9:00 a.m. as possible.
- On Tuesday, April 7, 2020, I will be addressing Advisory hearings in a courtroom and time TBD. It will have to be a courtroom which can accommodate in-person appearances, so unless something changes, and I have access to 5C once again, we will be using either courtroom 2A or 4B.
- In order to follow CDC recommendations, all parents and parents’ attorneys - appearing in person, for his/her Advisory Hearing will be asked to wait outside the courtroom and practice social distancing, maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet apart. The parent(s) with his/her attorney, will be permitted in the courtroom when his/her case is called. All other parties, including, CLS and GAL will appear remotely as follows: CLS is to provide teleconferencing number.
- If a parent wishes to execute a Surrender, the Surrender will be accepted, assuming the document is in proper order and parent’s counsel is present.
- If a parent wishes to enter a Denial, the Court will continue the Advisory Hearing and direct counsel to consult with the family mediation program to schedule a remote mediation, if possible. The Advisory hearing will be continued approximately 45 days to allow for meaningful discussion and remote mediation, if possible. At the continued advisory hearing every effort will be made to schedule a Phase One and/or Phase Two trial, in hopes the COVID-19 pandemic has been adequately addressed.
- If a Phase One Trial or SIPP hearing is set on a Tuesday, I will address it, as scheduled, in Courtroom 4B.
- All Phase One Trials (both TPR and Dependency) and SIPP PLACEMENT HEARINGS set on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays will be heard, at the time previously set (or as close thereto as possible) in Courtroom 4B, by either Judge Dees or Judge Maulucci.
- Any other matter, which an attorney believes is an emergency or requires immediate attention, however, was not identified by AO as a “mission essential” hearing, such as adoptions, etc.…, should be brought to the attention of my Judicial Assistant. I will review the matter, and for so long as all parties agree the matter is appropriate for telephone or video conferencing, the matter may be heard when I have access to Hearing Room 9A which is equipped with digital recording and remote conferencing capabilities on a date and time TBD. **NO PARTY MAY APPEAR, IN PERSON, IN HEARING ROOM 9A**
- Phase One Trials (both TPR and Dependency) set on Wednesdays, will be heard by Judge Maulucci in Courtroom 4B.
- Phase Two (Adjudicatory) Trials will remain on the docket, as scheduled, however, no trial will occur. The Phase Two trial will take place in either Courtroom 2A or 4B, as the parent and his/her attorney must appear, in person, unless and until Courtroom 5C becomes available once again. As such, all witnesses may be released from subpoena. A parent will be provided a continued Phase Two Trial date.
- Dependency Arraignments. If a Petition for Dependency has been filed, and a parent, after consulting with his/her attorney, desires to enter a Consent and has agreed to comply with a Reunification Case Plan (which has been agreed to by all parties) – the consent may be accepted (if properly executed) and the case plan can be approved (if properly signed by all parties) – for so long as all documents have been properly filed (electronically) in the court file. These matters may be addressed remotely from Hearing Room 9A by agreement of the parties to handle the matter remotely. These matters will need to be scheduled by the attorney(s) through my Judicial Assistant.
- Judicial Reviews. Judicial Reviews (JRs) have not been identified as mission essential, despite the statutory requirements we are all well aware of.
- If each party waives his/her right to a formal Judicial Review Hearing conducted, in person, by the juvenile judge AND agrees the Court may enter an Order on Judicial Review based upon the Judicial Review Social Study Report and GAL Report, and the parent’s attorney states, in writing, that his/her client agrees to the immediate entry of an Order on Judicial Review, OR the parent has failed to maintain any meaningful contact with counsel, which would permit counsel to argue on his/her behalf, rather than continuing the matter until the CDC and the Florida Supreme Court lift restrictions, the Court will sign the agreed Order on Judicial Review which must include language scheduling the next Judicial Review consistent with statute.
- All other JRs will be rescheduled when I have access to Hearing Room 9A, for so long as the parties agree the hearings can be conducted remotely. If no such agreement exists, the remaining JRs will be rescheduled when the courthouse regains full functioning and I have access to Courtroom 5C and am permitted to conduct “mass dockets” once again.
- Please feel free to contact either of the juvenile division’s Judicial Assistants if you have any questions about dates/times/locations or methods of appearance. A juvenile Judicial Assistant will either be in the courthouse or working remotely monitoring phones and emails during regular business hours.