As we have reopened for jury trials and looking ahead, we will continue to follow our COVID-19 protocols. Our efforts are in alignment with and based on guidance from the CDC. The frequent additional cleaning procedures underway include the sanitizing of high contact surfaces, fogging areas with sanitizer after-hours and limiting face to face contact. Universal mask wearing, hand sanitizer, temperature checks, and health screenings will continue to be in place now and for the foreseeable future. The situation with COVID-19 means that we may all know someone who has caught the virus and we may continue to hear of new cases in the coming weeks and months. When we have a new case, we will quickly enact measures to identify, isolate, sanitize, and notify. We want to take care of the public and every employee, judicial partner and legal professional who share the courthouse space as part of their workday. The entire judiciary, leadership team and various court partners are committed to transparency and effective remedial actions to keep the court system moving forward safely during the pandemic. We will reassess the needs as they arise and if measures dictate changes such as limiting access to the building or changes in the hours of operation, or closures for quarantining off an area while deep cleaning is conducted, we will take any measures necessary and will not hesitate.
Jury trials in the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit will resume beginning Monday, October 5, 2020. Jurors can expect to begin receiving summons in the coming weeks in Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, and St. Lucie counties.
Chief Judge Lawrence Mirman decided to resume jury trials based on improving local health conditions and other extensive criteria provided to all judicial circuits by the Florida Supreme Court. All persons attending jury trials will be required to wear masks and engage in social distancing.
During the early stages of the pandemic, Chief Judge Mirman convened a COVID-19 Reopening Workgroup comprised of justice stakeholders such as Clerks of Court, Sheriffs, State Attorney, and Public Defender. The workgroup established an extensive set of protocols designed to help ensure health and safety during the jury selection process and trial. These protocols were adopted by Chief Judge Mirman in Administrative Order 2020-10 located here: http://www.circuit19.org/about-courts/administrative-orders/2020-10
The Workgroup’s protocols provide many changes in court facilities, including procedures for summonses and jury selection. Summonses will now encourage jurors to participate in the important civic duty of jury service and advise them of health and safety protocols that have been put into place inside the courthouses. Prospective jurors will be advised of new protocols for deferment of jury duty based on health-related factors where applicable.
During jury selection proceedings, jurors will be socially distanced in a separate assembly room. Selected jurors will be located in an expanded jury box during trials and throughout the juror deliberation process. The largest courtrooms will be reserved for jury trials, and, where feasible, plexiglass shielding will provide additional protection.
Other precautionary measures include frequent sanitizing of surfaces, no-contact temperature screening, numerous hand-sanitizer stations, and limits on the number of people permitted in an elevator.
It is the intent of the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit to transition to optimal operations in a manner that protects the public’s health and safety during each of the following anticipated phases of the pandemic:
• Phase 1: In-person contact is inadvisable, court facilities are effectively closed to the public, and in-person proceedings are rare;
• Phase 2: Limited in-person contact is authorized for certain purposes and/or requires use of protective measures;
• Phase 3: In-person contact is more broadly authorized and protective measures are relaxed; and
• Phase 4: COVID-19 no longer presents a significant risk to public health and safety.
Currently, the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit remains in Phase 2. Chief Judge Mirman has indicated that if local health conditions should deteriorate, he will not hesitate to act in the interest of public health and safety.
For more information on jury duty please contact the Clerk of Court in your county using the links and phone numbers below:
St Lucie County Clerk of Court: https://www.stlucieclerk.com/services/jury-duty
Indian River County Clerk of Court: http://www.clerk.indian-river.org/en/jury-duty/
Martin County Clerk of Court: https://www.martinclerk.com/jury_duty
Okeechobee County Clerk of Court: http://www.clerk.co.okeechobee.fl.us/
Chief Judge Lawrence R. Mirman approved the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit’s COVID-19 Operational Plan outlining the Circuit’s plans to re-open the courthouses in a manner that protects the public’s health and safety. The plan provides safety protocols allowing the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit to transition from Phase One to Phase Two beginning on Monday, June 1, 2020. Consistent with Supreme Court administrative orders the anticipated phases for the reopening of courts includes four phases:
- Phase 1: In-person contact is inadvisable, court facilities are effectively closed to the public, and in-person proceedings are rare;
- Phase 2: Limited in-person contact is authorized for certain purposes and/or requires the use of protective measures;
- Phase 3: In-person contact is more broadly authorized and protective measures are relaxed; and
- Phase 4: COVID-19 no longer presents a significant risk to public health and safety.
While in Phase Two, the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit will continue to maximize remote court proceedings and programs. Several essential and non-essential court proceedings will be conducted remotely via Zoom or teleconferencing means.
Anyone entering the 19th Judicial Circuit courthouses is required to wear appropriate face coverings while in the buildings. All persons entering are also subject to a health and safety screening. This includes a temperature scan and limited inquiries regarding potential respiratory illness. People with a fever above 100.4 degrees or who answers yes to the screening questions will not be allowed to enter the courthouse. These people will be directed by court deputies who will make alternative arrangements. We ask that only those with official court business, scheduled proceedings, and appointments visit any of our courthouses or court facilities.
While inside and outside the courthouses, people must maintain six feet of distance from others. Queuing areas and decals have been placed throughout the courthouses to maintain social distancing. The galleries of all courtrooms have been measured and the seating has been marked to maintain the required six feet distance. The number of people inside elevators, lobbies, and other public areas will be limited. Hand sanitizer will be widely available for use throughout the courthouses to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Questions about case status should be directed to the presiding judges and magistrates. Contact information is located on the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit’s website: http://www.circuit19.org/judges. You may also call 772-807-4370 or email firstname.lastname@example.org