ALL SOUTH COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HEARINGS WILL BE HELD VIA ZOOM With the exception of essential proceedings, all hearings will be conducted via video conference. Essential proceedings can be and have been conducted effectively remotely; therefore, these proceedings may proceed in-person only if it is shown that conducting the proceedings remotely is infeasible due to the lack of technological resources. If an essential matter must be heard in-person, file a motion requesting an in-person hearing and detail the difficulty that exists in being able to participate remotely. Email the motion to the judicial assistant with a copy to all parties.
Nothing precludes the parties from stipulating that matters be determined based solely on written submissions (written motions and written responses with legal analysis). Any such stipulation shall be evidenced by an agreement signed by all parties and filed with the Clerk.
- Use of Video Conference for Court Hearings: As a reminder, court hearings remain public proceedings despite the existence of COVID-19. The Court will use the Zoom video conference platform to conduct virtual court hearings. You can find information about Zoom at its website. Zoom is FREE. If you are unfamiliar with the Zoom platform, please go to the Zoom training page to learn how to access the platform.
The Court must be able to see all parties. The use of the audio number provided with the hearing information is if the video/camera device does not have a two-way microphone.
- Scheduling Hearings: There is hearing time available on JACS and nothing about scheduling hearings has changed. If hearing time is not available in the timeframe you need, or for longer hearings, please continue to contact the judicial assistant. Alternate, unconventional dates are always available. Email contact with the judicial assistant with copy to all parties generally is the quicker and more efficient means of communication.
- Requirements for the Notice of Hearing: The public’s constitutional right of access to the courts is of upmost importance. The necessary information that will permit the parties and the public access to the court hearing is accessible at Judge Ruhl's Zoom Video Conference Access Information page. Additionally, the Court also requires the notice of hearing to contain language that will direct the parties and public to that site.
CMC, Pre-Trial Conference & Docket Sounding: Plaintiff’s counsel (or defense counsel, if plaintiff is pro se) shall file a Notice of Hearing with all Zoom hearing information separate from the Order entered by the Court.
The Notice of Hearing shall contain the following: zoom link, meeting id, password, audio access (for issues as indicated in paragraph 2), and alternate link from the Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court website. If any of the listed information is missing, the hearing will be cancelled by the Court without further notice to the parties as the hearing was not properly noticed.
LANGUAGE TO INCLUDE IN NOTICE OF HEARING:
- Jury Trials: All jury trials are cancelled through September 18, 2020. However, parties shall attend the Pre-Trial Conference, as it will serve as a Status Conference. If the parties would like a sooner Status Conference, please review JACS for available hearing time or contact the judicial assistant.
- Nonjury Trials and Evidentiary Hearings: Prior to docket sounding, the parties shall discuss the logistics of conducting any nonjury trials or evidentiary hearing remotely. Once a date/time certain has been reserved, parties shall set a short Status Conference with the Court to discuss any issues concerning video conferencing matters. For those on a trial docket, this date will usually be set by the Court to occur after Docket Sounding and before the start of trial. Parties are encouraged to review the Civil Guidelines for Virtual Evidentiary Hearings prior to setting the Status Conference.
- Emergency Matters: Normal procedures for handling emergency matters outlined in Local Rule 4b are still followed. The Court, when considering any emergency motion, may a require a written response from the other party prior to a video conference hearing being set and the Court may rule upon the motion without any hearing.
- Uniform Motion Calendar: UMCs are cancelled. Please review JACS for all available hearing time. There are 5-minute time slots available every week, except during the trial periods. If the parties are looking for hearing time within a week or are not able to find time, proceed with the normal procedure (see paragraph 3).
Last updated June 1, 2020.
 Essential proceedings are Injunction hearings, Emergency Temporary Guardianship hearings, Final Guardianship hearings, and hearings on DNR Orders. See In Re: Comprehensive COVID-19 Emergency Measures for the Florida State Courts, Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC20-23.1, Amendment 1 (Fla. May 4, 2020); In Re: COVID-19 Emergency Procedures and Mission Essential Functions, Twelfth Judicial Circuit Admin. Order No. 2020-4.2 (March 18, 2020).
 “Participants who have the capability of participating by electronic means in remote court proceedings shall do so.” In Re: Comprehensive COVID-19 Emergency Measures for the Florida State Courts, Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC20-23, Amendment 2 (Fla. May 21, 2020).
 Fla. Const. art. I, § 21.
 In Re: Order Suspending Civil Jury Trials Through September 18, 2020, Twelfth Judicial Circuit Admin. Order No. 2020-13.01 (May 29, 2020).