TAMPA, Fla. - The COVID-19 pandemic has not slowed down the workload of Hillsborough Circuit Judge Wesley Tibbals. His family court is busier than ever, except now it’s gone virtual.
Judge Tibbals’ courtroom is really his home garage, and the flags and seal aren’t really there.
“When I walk into my garage, this is a green screen I see, and when I switch it over to the courtroom graphic, this is what everybody sees when they join into a Zoom call,” the judge explained.
The Hillsborough County Circuit Court is now setting the trend for the rest of the state’s court circuits. They jumped on the tech wave early on.
“Judge Christine Marlewski and Judge Jared Smith had already started the process of researching video conference platforms,” said Judge Tibbals.
By late March, the Family Court division was online doing Zoom dockets. Other court circuits are still doing telephonic hearings and playing catch-up.
Judge Tibbals’ docket Includes restraining orders, divorces, custody, and guardianship cases, Just to name a few.
He says the technology has helped him move his docket along more efficiently. And he believes the virtual courtroom is the new way of doing business that’s not going away any time soon.
“I certainly hope not. Not in my division, that’s for sure.”