Members of the public will be able to enter and move through courthouses across the state, including the Flagler County courthouse, while in-person court proceedings will continue to have mask requirements and social distancing, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady announced Thursday as he issued revamped Covid-19 orders.
“As you know, for more than a year we have taken steps to safely operate the judicial branch using safeguards dictated by changing health conditions and evolving best practices,” Canady said in a prepared statement. “The changes I make today reflect the current state of the pandemic while maintaining appropriate safeguards as we move toward the time when all Floridians eligible for vaccination will have had the opportunity to become fully vaccinated.”
Canady also said he expected that in the “not-too-distant future modifications of the protocols now in place for in-person court proceedings will be adopted so that we can move our courtrooms back to more normal operations.”
In Flagler County, trials resumed last month while numerous court proceedings such as pre-trials, docket sounding, pleas and sentencings have been carried out with a hybrid approach: the judge in the courtroom and the lawyers and parties to proceedings either in the courtroom or on video links.
Canady had issued a series of orders during the pandemic that have limited trials and placed other restrictions on court proceedings. Courts, including the Supreme Court, have relied heavily on videoconferences.
Thursday’s announcement came three days after Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended local-government orders about coronavirus precautions. Also, Department of Health Secretary Scott Rivkees issued a public health advisory April 29 encouraging all government agencies to reopen their doors to the public. After being closed to the public for 14 months, the Florida Capitol will reopen to the public Friday. All local government offices in Flagler have reopened, and most have lifted masking requirements, including at the Government Services Building and Palm Coast City Hall. Restrictions remain at Flagler Beach City Hall.
–News Service of Florida and FlaglerLive