Florida Civil Remote Court Hearings Are Here to Stay Post COVID-19

Florida Civil Remote Court Hearings Are Here to Stay Post COVID-19

Due to the success of civil remote court hearings during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Florida Supreme Court has amended various procedural rules, effective October 01, 2022, to provide “permanent and broader authorization for the remote conduct of certain court proceedings.” In. re: Amendments to the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, No. SC21-990, 2022 WL 2721129 (Fla. July 14, 2022).

Florida Remote Court Non-Evidentiary Proceedings

The major change(s) and emphasis for remote court proceedings are now set forth within Rule 2.530 of the General Practice and Judicial Administration. The new modifications and amendments are liberally construed in favor of remote proceedings. One of the most important additions is for non-evidentiary proceedings.

Non-evidentiary hearings are controlled by 2.530(b)(1) which now reads, “a court official must grant a motion to use communication technology for a non-evidentiary proceeding scheduled for 30 minutes or less unless the court official determines that good cause exists to deny the motion.”

Deference to Use of Technology for Civil Remote Court Hearings

Moreover, Rule 2.530(b) gives deference to the use of communication technology and states:

“[…] communication technology may be used for all proceedings before a court official, as provided by this rule. […] a court official may authorize the use of communication technology for the presentation of testimony or for other participation in a proceeding upon the written motion of a party or at the discretion of the court official. Reasonable advance notice of the specific form of communication technology to be used and directions for access to the communication technology must be provided in the written motion or in a written notice from the court official exercising discretion. The motion or notice must be served on all who are entitled to notice of the proceeding. A party may file an objection in writing to the use of communication technology within 10 days after service of the motion or notice or within such other period as may be directed by the court official. A party waives objections to the use of communication technology by failing to timely object to the motion or notice unless, before the date of the proceeding, the party establishes good cause for the failure to timely object. A courtesy copy of the written motion or objection must be provided to the court official in an electronic or a paper format as directed by the court official. The court official must consider any objection before authorizing the use of communication technology. The decision to authorize the use of communication technology over objection shall be in the discretion of the court official.”

Testimony in Civil Remote Court Hearings

The new rule also addresses testimony through remote proceedings. Once again, the Florida Supreme Court’s new modifications re-wrote the rules to construe in favor of remote proceedings. Rule 2.520(b)(2), addressing remote testimony, states “a written motion by a party to present testimony through communication technology must set forth good cause why the testimony should be allowed in the specific form requested and must specify whether each party consents to the form requested.”

Within this rule, the Court listed factors to consider whether good cause exists. In determining whether good cause exists, “the court official may consider, without limitation, the technological capabilities of the courtroom, how the presentation of testimony through communication technology advances the proceeding or case to resolution, the consent of the parties, the time-sensitivity of the matter, the nature of the relief sought and the amount in controversy in the case, the resources of the parties, the anticipated duration of the testimony, the need and ability to review and identify documents during testimony, the probative value of the testimony, the geographic location of the witness, the cost and inconvenience in requiring the physical presence of the witness, the need to observe the demeanor of the witness, the potential for unfair surprise, and any other matter relevant to the request.”

Among other amendments, 2.516 (Service of Pleadings and Documents) is amended to require non-represented parties to designate an email address to which service must be directed unless the party is in custody, or the party is excused by the clerk of court from email service.