In the Circuit Court of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit
of the State of Florida in and for
DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota Counties
Administrative Order No. 2021–15f.2
(modifies and amends 2021–15e.2)
Fifth Amended Order
on Health and Safety
It is appropriate to modify and amend Administrative Order 2021-15e.2 to comply with Florida Supreme Court Administrative Order AOSC21-17, Amendment 2, titled In re: Covid-19 Health and Safety Protocols and Emergency Operational Measures for Florida Appellate and Trial Courts, issued on November 4, 2021, and effective November 15, 2021.
While each county within our circuit is experiencing fewer COVID-19 cases, and with new case positivity rates declining to levels between 2.2% and 4.8% in our counties, the health, safety, and well-being of courthouse visitors, jurors, court employees, and judicial officers are still a high priority, and we 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.
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.
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 2 (November 4, 2021), in the interest of the health, safety, and well-being of all people entering 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:
Face Masks Recommended but not Required
- Face masks are not required to be worn upon entering the courthouse or in public areas of the courthouse. However, all persons, including those unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated are highly encouraged to wear a face mask, and should wear a face mask while in the courthouse and in close proximity to other persons.
- If a person entering the courthouse wishes to wear a face mask but does not have his/her own face mask, one will be provided upon request.
Physical Distancing Highly Recommended but not Required
- Physical distancing is not required, but is highly recommended in all courtrooms, hearing rooms, jury assembly rooms and jury deliberation rooms where in-person proceedings occur.
- Signage will be on courtroom seats to accommodate physical distancing requests.
Hygiene and Wellness
- Anyone who is sick should not enter the Courthouse. Symptoms including a cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, fever or chills, body aches, vomiting or diarrhea, or a new loss of taste or smell, may be indicative of COVID-19.
- Everyone in the courthouse must practice good hygiene protocols, including hand washing, hand sanitizing, and covering coughs and sneezes.
- Hand sanitizer is widely available throughout the courthouse, including inside courtrooms.
- Disinfecting cleaning products and paper towels are available in each courtroom.
Use of Remote Technology, In-Person Proceedings Authorized, and Inmate Transport Authorized
- Presiding judges are encouraged to use remote technology for court proceedings whenever possible. If a party requests that a court proceeding be conducted using remote technology, the presiding judge should give reasonable consideration to accommodating the request.
- If mass dockets are conducted in person, the presiding judge is encouraged to establish a protocol that uses staggered start times to accommodate anticipated physical distancing requests.
- Unrepresented defendants, or defendants in whose cases a written plea of not guilty or denial have not been filed, shall appear in court in person for all arraignments, including violation of probation early case resolution (ECR) arraignments.
- In-custody defendants who are not in segregation, quarantine or isolation housing at the county jail may be transported to the courthouse for jury trials and hearings at the discretion of the presiding judge. An incarcerated defendant who tests positive for COVID-19 shall not be transported.
- Grand jury proceedings may be convened.
- Baker Act and Marchman Act hearings held off-site at medical facilities will be conducted in-person unless that individual waives the right to physical presence at the hearing.
- It is highly encouraged and recommended that all mediations be conducted using remote technology. However, if all parties agree, in-person mediations may be held.
- Deposition rooms in the courthouses are open.
- Administrative Order 2021-15e.2 is hereby amended by this Fifth Amended Administrative Order, which is effective Monday, November 15, 2021, and will remain in effect until modified, extended or rescinded by further order of this court based on updated health data or direction by the Florida Supreme Court.
Done and ordered in Chambers, Sarasota County, Florida, this 10th day of November, 2021.
Charles E. Roberts
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