Virtual Town Hall

Civil Bench ‘Zooms’ with Local Bar in Town Hall Event

The judges and magistrate representing the 12th Judicial Circuit’s Civil Bench held a virtual town hall on April 22 for members of the Manatee County and Sarasota County Bar Associations.

More than 130 participants logged on to the event where the panel answered questions and spoke about various topics as they related to court operations and the pandemic.

  • Chief Judge Kimberly C. Bonner updated the Bar about the efforts the court system will be making in coming weeks to resume full operations. Judge Bonner has been appointed to the 17-member statewide Court Continuity Workgroup by Chief Justice Canady, and the group’s first meeting is this week. One of their tasks when it comes to resuming full operations, is to determine which matters heard remotely were effective and could they continue to be conducted that way.
  • Judge Maria Ruhl, representing South County, offered tips and guidelines for conducting successful remote hearings.
  • Judge Andrea McHugh (Sarasota) offered guidelines for conducting evidentiary hearings remotely.
  • Judge Stephen Walker (Sarasota) talked about professionalism and the importance of communication, especially when dealing with personal issues during this unprecedented time.
  • Judge Edward Nicholas and Judge Charles Sniffen, representing Manatee County, reminded attorneys that all hearings are open to the public and they need to include phone numbers on their Notices of Hearing so the public can attend proceedings. Judge Nicholas and Judge Sniffen said they have plenty of hearing time available.
  • Judge Danielle Brewer, representing DeSoto County, said she and Judge Hall are conducting hearings via Zoom and telephone; however internet service in Arcadia isn’t the same as internet service in the Bradenton/Sarasota area so she asked for patience as connections are slow. Judge Brewer added that they are continuing many hearings for self-represented litigants because they don’t have access to the internet.
  • Judge Phyllis Galen, representing Sarasota County civil, and Judge Hunter Carroll (Sarasota) discussed the status of evictions and foreclosures throughout the circuit.
  • Magistrate Deborah Bailey (Sarasota) is conducting hearings via Zoom and said she has the ability to record those hearings and upload them to Digital Court Recording in case someone needs to request the audio recording.
  • Judge Carroll concluded the online event by letting participants know that they could receive one hour of continuing education credit for attending the town hall.

Stay tuned for more town halls with the 12th Circuit Bench. Next up: Criminal Bench Town Hall, Noon-1 p.m., Friday, April 24, 2020

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