Update on court procedures in the 14th Circuit

Florida Courts remain open at this time and continue to fulfill the mission of protecting of rights and liberties, upholding and interpreting the law, and providing for the peaceful resolution of disputes. It is the high priority of all Florida Courts to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.

The Court is also committed to the health and safety of all litigants, stakeholders, attorneys, Clerks, Court Administration, and the citizens of the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit. To that end certain policies have been in effect since last Monday, March 16, 2020.

The courthouses in this Circuit (Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, and Washington Counties) remain open and functioning. Each courthouse has varying degrees of physical access to achieve our commitment to health and safety. Each courthouse has electronic and telephonic access for all patrons as well. Many of these policies have been developed as lessons learned post Hurricane Michael.

The Clerks in each of these courthouses are leading efforts to ensure the timely processing of documents and fine payments. The Clerks of Court are finding innovative and effective ways to support their missions.

The Court is deploying technology to continue its critical missions, and some non-critical functions, such as civil hearings that can be done telephonically, in keeping with the United States and Florida State Constitutions. In addition, the Court has adopted telecommuting policies for all court administration personnel in order to promote social distancing, for the protection of court employees and patrons, and to continue the efficient work of the Court.

The Court is also working closely with the Sheriff of each county to promote the welfare of persons incarcerated, monitor jail populations, and provide release conditions of those eligible to ensure the safety of our communities.

The following policies have been implemented:

• Until further order, all in-person hearings have been suspended.

• Until further order, all jury trials and grand jury proceedings are suspended. Some non-critical proceedings that cannot be done telephonically or by video are suspended and continued.

• A circuit-wide moratorium is imposed on in-person foreclosure sales.

• A circuit-wide moratorium is imposed on the service of writs of possession.

• All judges in the circuit are designated as juvenile judges along with their regular duties to ensure the prompt disposition of juvenile detention matters.

• For at-risk children, the Court has adopted a policy of electronic parent-child visitations in keeping with Florida law.

• For individuals ordered into State-mandated counseling, all in-person counseling is suspended, and counseling shall continue utilizing electronic means.

The Court is continuing to seek new technologies to allow for greater access to the court and to permit the rescheduling of non-critical proceedings.

The Fourteenth Judicial Circuit continues to provide timely updates to its website at www.jud14.flcourts.org, Twitter @14THJUDFL, and Instagram @14THJUDFL to keep the community informed.

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