In the Circuit Court of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit
of the State of Florida in and for
DeSoto, Sarasota and Manatee Counties
Administrative Order No. 2021–16.2
Order Temporarily Suspending all
Jury Trials Effective August 30, 2021
The health, safety, and well-being of courthouse visitors, jurors, court employees, and judicial officers are a high priority, and we must continue to take steps to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on the courts, its participants, and the general public, while fulfilling the court system’s responsibilities for the administration of justice.
Between August 13-19, 2021, Florida again led the nation in new cases of COVID-19. According to the most recent Florida Department of Health COVID-19 Weekly Situation Report, 150,118 new cases were reported in Florida between August 13-19, 2021, averaging just over 21,445 new cases per day. as compared to averaging less than 1,500 new cases per day for the week beginning June 11, 2021, when there were 10,459 reported new cases.
Unfortunately, Desoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties continue to show alarming upward trends in positive COVID-19 cases. The most recent 14-day trend shows a 67% increase in cases in Manatee County, a 49% increase in cases in Sarasota County, and an 87% increase in cases in DeSoto County. According to the Florida Department of Health, the new case positivity rates between August 13-19, 2021 in the counties of the Twelfth Circuit are as follows: DeSoto County: 24.2%; Manatee County: 19.4%; and Sarasota County: 18.6%.
Due to recent increased cases of COVID-19, in large part due to the Delta variant, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has determined that the level of community transmission of COVID-19 is high in all three counties in the Twelfth Judicial Circuit.
The Florida Supreme Court has authorized the chief judge of each circuit in Florida, if warranted by local health conditions, to have the discretion to determine how best to utilize available trial court resources and facility space to conduct in-person proceedings. When COVID-19 restrictions were reduced in June following promising health data showing significantly lower infection rates, a large number of people, including prospective jurors (often numbering in the hundreds) returned to the courthouses. However, due to the marked escalation in COVID-19 cases in all three counties within the circuit, it has become necessary once again to temporarily suspend jury trials so that the number of people in each courthouse will be reduced, and to protect jurors from possible exposure to COVID-19. Compelling so many people from the community to report for jury duty and then placing them together in jury assembly rooms or courtrooms for extended periods of time creates too great a risk of COVID-19 exposure and cannot continue under current pandemic conditions.
In accordance with Article V, section 7, Florida Constitution, Rule of General Practice and Judicial Administration 2.215, section 43.26, Florida Statutes and In re: COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols and Emergency Operational Measures for Florida Appellate and Trial Courts, Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC21-17, Amendment 1 (July 29, 2021), in the interest of the health, safety, and well-being of trial participants and potential jurors summoned to the courthouse, and in order to reduce the possibility of transmission of COVID-19 in the courthouse, it is hereby ordered and adjudged as follows:
- Effective August 30, 2021, jury trials are temporarily suspended in all three counties in the Twelfth Judicial Circuit.
- All cases in which jury panels are scheduled to be selected prior to August 30, 2021 may proceed to jury selection and trial if all parties agree.
- A minimum of two weeks’ notice will be publicly provided when the Chief Judge determines that the number of COVID-19 cases has sufficiently declined, and that adequate health and safety protocols are in place such that jury trials can safely resume in each county in the Twelfth Judicial Circuit.
- This Administrative Order is effective immediately and will remain in effect until modified, extended or rescinded by further order of this court.
Done and ordered in Chambers, Sarasota County, Florida, this 25th day of August, 2021.
Charles E. Roberts
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