Miami-Dade Courts readying ‘virtual’ hearings due to COVID-19 crisis

Judges and staff training on Zoom platform

MIAMI, Fla. – Judges and staff who work in the Miami-Dade court system are getting trained on how to run virtual hearings as the new coronavirus impacts courtroom proceedings.

Eleventh Circuit Court Judge Nushin Sayfie told Local 10’s Christina Vazquez all court trials have been postponed until at least Friday, April 17 with the expectation that date will be extended, but emergency and mission-critical proceedings will go on using remote technology.

All arraignments are being reset. For in-custody defendants, the cases are being screened by the State and the Defense and addressed on a case-by-case basis. The in-custody arraignments will be heard, as well as arraignments for out-of-custody, unrepresented defendants. For out-of-custody defendants that are represented by counsel, these cases are being reset for a future status hearing date.

In order to stop the spread of COVID-19, court locations have been closed to the public except for those individuals participating in emergency or mission-critical proceedings. The Eleventh Judicial Circuit reported in a COVID-19 advisory that remote technology would be used “unless a presiding judge determines that an in-person court appearance is required. Persons required to attend in person should maintain six-feet of social distance from one another."

(See a list of mission-critical court proceedings here.)

The suspension of deadlines and time limits remain in place through close of business day Monday, April 20, 2020 for “all time limits and deadlines set by judicial order and/or authorized by rule and statute applicable to: civil (including circuit and county), family, domestic violence, dependency, probate, small claims, traffic, bond forfeiture, and appellate proceedings are further suspended until the close of business day on Monday, April 20, 2020,” a Miami-Dade Courts advisory explained.

”For clarification, the suspension of time limits and deadlines began on the close of business day Friday, March 13, 2020 and is now extended through the close of business day Monday, April 20, 2020.”

“Normally when you get arrested and charged, if there is no delay attributable to the defendant, they have the right to a speedy trial. (It is) either basically a 90-days or six months depending on whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony,” explained Sayfie. "Those timelines are now extended out.”

She said anyone who has questions about a case, civil or criminal, should call the office of the presiding judge. You can find a complete judicial directory here: Florida Courts Judicial Directory.

About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."