Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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County/N. Florida News

Columbia County Courts and Others Getting Back to Normal, ‘Sort Of’

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Late yesterday morning, Third Circuit Chief Judge Mark Feagle advised the Circuit that based on the latest Administrative Order by FL Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady, courts would be resuming in-person court proceedings.

In a memo to the Circuit, Judge Feagle wrote, “On June 21, 2021, we will begin to operate and conduct our in-person court business without the requirement to wear face masks and without social distancing.”

Judge Feagle continued:

“I realize most would like uniformity throughout the circuit, and to the extent possible, we will do that. However, please understand that complete uniformity will be impossible at this point.”

Many of us will continue to conduct hearings using the virtual technology we have grown accustomed to because of the health care crisis that restricted our in-person court proceedings. While some were skeptical of and had great concern for court hearings being conducted through virtual platforms, this past year has opened our eyes and proven that technology has revolutionized how the court system can operate.

The judges have met and discussed how best to move forward for the benefit of the bar, the public, and justice, and you will find that many will continue to utilize the virtual platforms for various dockets, at least in part."

Judge Feagle concluded his remarks to the Circuit, “I am grateful to be part of the Third Judicial Circuit and able to work within the seven counties that make up our circuit. Throughout the health crisis, we have all adapted; have maintained our professionalism; served the interests of justice to the best of our abilities. It has truly been a team effort from all the participants, and I thank you!"

A Little History &
What Does This Mean for Folks Heading Into Court?

At the height of the pandemic last spring, Florida's Supreme Court shut down live Court appearances for anything that was not deemed essential or an emergency.

The June 4 Supremes’ Administrative Order (AOSC21-17) allows the courts to open back up and operate the way they used to be before the days of masks and social distancing. While this order eliminates masks, it encourages them.

According to Emily Pribisco of Taylor Day Law, “Civil court proceedings are still very low on the priority list for bringing litigants and their attorneys back into the courthouse. Rather, the emphasis on utilizing technology to facilitate remote notarization, depositions, hearings, and even jury trials remains in full swing.”

Ms. Pribisco went on to write, “The Order encourages outside the box approaches to utilize wasted courthouse space…reassigning judges and court staff to clear the COVID backlog of cases.”

Ms. Pribisco concluded her analysis of the Supremes' most recent order: "With the emphasis on allocating in-person and court resources to the highest priority and most complex cases, the Florida Supreme Court has provided a hopeful light towards making regular court appearances less of a novelty and more of a reality.”

Ms. Pribisco's complete explanation of AOSC21-17 is here.

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