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The latest updates on the COVID-19 outbreak in South Florida.

Miami-Dade Circuit Court Shuts Down For All But Urgent Proceedings As COVID-19 Cases Rise

Al Diaz
Miami Herald
The chief judge ordered circuit courts in Miami-Dade County closed to all but urgent proceedings Monday, including first appearances, mental heath hearings and juvenile proceedings.

Miami-Dade County Circuit Court shut down public access for all but urgent proceedings Monday, joining a growing number of government agencies shuttering doors to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Chief Judge Bertila Soto signed an order limiting hearings to first appearances, mental health orders and juvenile proceedings. No other public access will be allowed in any of the circuit courthouses in Miami-Dade County through March 27.

As the number of new coronavirus cases in Florida has steadily increased, courthouses have begun restricting access and operations.

On Friday, the Florida Supreme Court’s chief justice suspended jury duty in all state courts and suspended jury trials and grand juries for two weeks. Federal courthouses for the Southern District of Florida in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Key West and Fort Pierce — including bankruptcy and probation — remain open, but with restrictions.

Visitors have been told to report any potential exposure to the virus to security at screening areas. That includes travel to overseas countries where COVID-19 is spreading; living with someone who’s traveled to those countries or who has been diagnosed with the virus; or doctor’s orders to self-quarantine. A yes to any of the questions would bar the person from entering the courthouse.

Chief Judge Michael Moore also canceled jury and criminal trials set to begin Monday and until March 30, ordering them continued pending further notice. Moore left it up to individual judges to decide proceedings on civil cases.

Moore also wrote that he was cognizant of rules regarding speedy trials, and would allow individual judges to hear motions for exceptions.

Individual judges may also decide what hearings, conferences or other proceedings they wish to hold, although Moore urged them to use phone or video conferencing. As with state court, first appearances will continue, along with detention hearings. The courts will also continue to issue search warrants.