Florida may allow civil trials to continue virtually, even after pandemic

Post pandemic, civil jury trials may go virtual -- for good. It’s already happening in states like Texas, and now the Florida Supreme Court is trying it out in several places, including Miami and Orlando. 

The judge, the clerks, the attorneys and the jurors all gather in a virtual courtroom, listening to testimony remotely. 

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren says the process is innovative, but it doesn’t come without its hiccups.

“I think I saw last week there was a trial in Texas where a juror answered his phone got up and walked away from his computer so they’re clearly going to be some obstacles we need to navigate,“ said Warren.

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While this may be a wave of the future for civil trials, attorney Anthony Rickman says it could never be pulled off in criminal trials.

“Virtual trials won’t work in a criminal case. Criminal defendants have different rights -- the right to due process, the right to confront witnesses, and to cross-examine those witnesses, the right to test that evidence and the right to have a jury weigh that evidence,” explained Rickman.

Some circuits are even doing mock trials just to see how it would work.

However, Rickman says the constitutional dangers coupled with the COVID crisis creates a perfect storm of obstacles for criminal jury trials that the justice system has never seen before.

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The Florida Supreme Court just announced criminal jury trials will be delayed again. The new date has been set for July 20, 2020.