Covid-19: AREA COURT CLOSURES AND THINGS TO KNOW ON HOW TO GET YOUR CASE MOVING!
The COVID-19 Pandemic has created shockwaves throughout the nation’s court system like nothing before. High courts are issuing stays of constitutional rights such as one’s right to a speedy trial as well as implementing hard to understand restrictions on who may enter a courthouse in the coming weeks.
This may be especially troubling for those less fortunate who cannot e-file critical documents in a court’s online docketing system, or for those who need immediate Injunctive relief (e.g, Injunctions for Protection), or the like. And what about those who were arrested recently? Will they be able to see a judge the next day and/or bond out prior to their next scheduled court hearing? These are some of things we’ll look at in this article, because at Lockett Law, we want you to know what’s going on. We want you to know your rights and know how to trigger those rights. That’s why we coined the phrase, “Know Before You Blow”! It really does have wide ranging application!
FOURTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT COURT COVID-19 IMPACT:
This is the area’s largest judicial circuit. It comprises Duval, Nassau, and Clay counties, with four (Fernandina Beach, Yulee, Green Cove Springs, Jacksonville) main area courthouses. If you have a pending case in this circuit, or need to file one, here is what you need to know.
Duval County Cases
As of March 27, 2020, the Chief Judge of the Fourth Circuit issued an Administrative order that sets out different rules on how this major metropolitan courthouse will operate and who will be allowed access. The more common examples of persons with access are those who have a case on that day’s calendar (and their attorney), those needing an Injunction for protection, victim’s wanting to appear at a sentencing hearing, or other defined “essential business”. This order does not affect those employees who work in the courthouse or other designated persons who are required to conduct business at the courthouse. Any person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 may not enter the courthouse.
Those persons who have been arrested and are in custody will appear via video conference live from the jail for their first appearance. The Judge and attorneys will be located at the main courthouse on Adams street via the same video feed for communications back and forth. Those persons who are out on bond with pending felony cases should have their lawyer file a waiver of appearance for upcoming arraignments and also file a waiver of speedy trial where the speedy trial period runs in May in order to avoid having to appear for the standard pre-trial conference. From there the cases will be administratively passed for a further pre-trial date that will be available on the clerk’s website. For those who are in custody, the arraignments and pre-trial hearings will be handled remotely.
Important emergency criminal hearings such as bond motions or sentencing hearings for in custody persons whos sentence will be time served (and eligible for immediate release) can be added to the docket rather quickly by filing said request with the applicable presiding judge. This applies to felony or misdemeanor cases. For a schedule of misdemeanor cases in Duval County that have been passed, please contact your lawyer.
All hearings are to be conducted by telephone or video conference. Cases involving domestic violence Injunction hearings will operate a bit differently. Requests for hearings in these cases should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Clerk’s office will continue to accept the initial Petitions for injunctions for protection, however hearings on cases not identified as “Priority Hearings” will be scheduled within four weeks of issuance of the temporary injunction. Injunction Hearings may be set up using either telephonic or video conferencing.
Cases involving small claims court, evictions or garnishments will also involve remote hearings. In-person hearings are not available and will be conducted either by telephonic or video conferencing. The execution of all Writs of Possession have been stayed by Order of the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court in AOSC20-17 until the close of business April 17, 2020. The clerk of courts is still open for business and accepting tenant registry payments in the standard manner. Any claims of Exemption from Garnishment will continue to be processed and hearings held expeditiously. All civil jury trials in the entire circuit have been suspended through May 17, 2020 per AO NO. 2020-06.
Clay & Nassau Counties
The Honorable Don Lester has issued an Administrative Order for Clay county cases that will remain in effect until April 10, 2020. Access to the Clay County Courthouse is essentially the same as Duval’s referenced above and the full Order can be accessed here. Those with civil infractions have been granted an additional 30 days within which to file an affidavit of defense. Those persons in Clay county who are on misdemeanor probation with a condition of community service or the victim impact panel are granted a 90 day extension to complete these conditions. Check the Clay Clerk website for additional information on criminal court dates.
Nassau County has issued a very similar set of Orders as referenced herein. Misdemeanor out of custody cases involving arraignment, negotiated plea, or a hearing scheduled by counsel with the judge’s office will be handled remotely via video conferencing. No routine hearings will be heard for the time being. For more information on all Nassau cases, as well as all counties in the Fourth Circuit, check here.
If your case or issue was not specifically addressed here, please call our office at 904-858-9818 and we’ll be happy to assist.
More on Covid-19 can be found here: