Eff. 3/31/20 for Manatee County Family Division 3 (Judge Whyte)
Thank you very much for your patience and understanding as we move forward during this public health emergency.
The following procedures and protocols may change as new Administrative Orders are received by the Court. Please refer to the Florida Supreme Court’s “Emergency” page and the 12th Circuit’s homepage for the latest updates.
The information, protocols, and procedures contained herein are intended to comply with the Administrative Orders from the Florida Supreme Court and the 12th Circuit: AOSC20-12; AOSC20-13; AOSC20-15; AOSC20-16; AOSC2017; and 12th Circuit A.O. 2020-4.2.
Effective March 26, 2020, and until at least April 17, 2020, all proceedings and court events requiring in-person appearances are postponed or cancelled in Manatee County’s Family Division 3 (Judge Whyte), except for essential proceedings, proceedings critical to the state of emergency or the public health emergency, and other emergency or time sensitive matters as determined by the presiding judge.
Emergency and Time Sensitive Matters
Emergency or time sensitive matters where an in-person court proceeding is required should be brought to the court’s attention immediately, via the Division 3, so the protocols put in place by the applicable Administrative Orders can be followed.
Emergency and Expedited matters should continue to be e-filed with the Clerk and sent to the Court, via the Division 3 e-mail, for review and consideration. Emergency and expedited hearings may occur in-person or by telephone, as directed by the Court. All evidence must be provided to the opposing party and the Court at least 24 hours prior to the telephonic hearing as set forth herein.
Non-essential proceedings that require in-person court appearances will need to be rescheduled by the scheduling party for a time when normal operations have resumed. Non-essential proceedings that require in-person court appearances and that were scheduled by the court will be rescheduled by the court for a time when normal operations have resumed.
Matters Currently Set for Hearing on or Before April 17th and Matters Sought to be Heard before April 17th
Cancellations: If the Movant intends to cancel a hearing that is set to be heard on or before April 17, 2020, the Movant should send an e-mail to the Division 3 e-mail, with other parties copied, confirming that the hearing is cancelled. The Movant should prepare and e-file a Notice of Cancellation with the Clerk of Court and send copies to the parties.
Non-evidentiary hearings: If the Movant intends to go forward telephonically with a non-evidentiary hearing that is set to be heard on or before April 17, 2020, Court approval is not required. The Movant should send an e-mail to the Division 3 e-mail, with other parties copied, confirming that the hearing remains set and will be heard telephonically. It would be helpful if the Notice of Hearing and Motion are attached to the e-mail. The Movant should also follow the Telephonic Protocols below.
Evidentiary hearings: For matters that are set for an evidentiary hearing on or before April 17, 2020, the Movant should send an e-mail to the Division 3 e-mail, with other parties copied, to ask if the court will hear the matter telephonically. It would be helpful if the Notice of Hearing and Motion are attached to the e-mail. If the Court agrees to hear the matter telephonically, the Movant should follow the Telephonic Protocols below.
Uncontested/Stipulated Final Hearings
Parties are encouraged to use the Special Interrogatory process that can be found on the Court’s website. This will minimize in-person interactions and allow parties to conclude their cases in a timely manner. The Court is reviewing Special Interrogatory packets on a daily basis and entering Final Judgements.
If a hearing is required, the Uncontested/Stipulated Final Hearing will be conducted by telephone. Parties should use the Court’s Special Interrogatories checklist to prepare a Final Hearing packet. The Final Hearing packet, including a proposed Final Judgment and a legible copy of proof of Florida residency, should be provided to the Court via e-mail at least 24 hours prior to the hearing to allow the Court to review the docket and to confirm the necessary documents are complete and correct.
As for identification of parties on the telephone:
- If both parties are represented by counsel, a notary is not required as long as both parties stipulate as to the identity of the other.
- If one or both parties are unrepresented, both sides must waive the notary requirement in Rule of Judicial Administration 2.530, and both parties will be required to stipulate as to the identity of the other.
- Otherwise, in order for the telephonic Final Hearing to go forward, the parties will need to have a notary or other authorized official administer an oath as required by Rule 2.530, Florida Rules of Judicial Administration, and AOSC20-16.
Motions to Compel
Pursuant to 12th Judicial Circuit AO 201022.2, Section E(1)(d), “Motions to compel discovery shall quote in full each interrogatory, question on deposition, request for admission, or request for production to which the motion is addressed and the objection and grounds given by the opposing party.” Strict adherence to this rule will facilitate the Court’s review of the contested matters without having to refer to multiple documents.
Parties can request an adoption hearing be conducted telephonically by following the Telephonic Hearing Protocols set forth below and having a notary or other authorized official administer an oath as required by Rule 2.530, Florida Rules of Judicial Administration, and AOSC20-16. The Court is amenable to conducting adoption hearings at a location other than the courthouse where practicable, as a courtesy to the parties. Please contact the Court’s JA, via the Division 3 e-mail, to request such arrangements.
Adoption proceedings that must be recorded should be brought to the Court’s attention via an e-mail to the Division 3 email so the protocols put in place by the applicable Administrative Orders can be followed.
Motions for Contempt and/or Enforcement
Please refer to and use the format of Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.960, Motion for Civil Contempt/Enforcement Form. Motions for Contempt and/or Enforcement should be put in plain and concise terms. The Court will consider these motions for telephonic hearing, pursuant to the applicable Administrative Orders and the procedures and protocols set forth herein.
Injunction Hearings (Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Repeat Violence, Sexual Violence, and Stalking)
These mission critical matters will continue to be in-person hearings on the days and times noticed by the Court. The number of people in the courtroom will be limited to ten or fewer, including staff.
If a party or attorney wishes to appear by telephone, a motion should be e-filed with the Clerk, sent to the other parties, and e-mailed to the Court at the Division 3 email. If the request to appear telephonically is granted, witnesses will need to comply with Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.530, including the requirement that a notary or other authorized official administer an oath as required by Rule 2.530, Florida Rules of Judicial Administration, and AOSC20-16.
Parties may also stipulate to a continuance of the hearing and submit the stipulation to the Court for consideration.
Case Management Conferences (CMC)
Parties can submit written stipulations to continue a CMC to another CMC date. Available CMC dates can be obtained by sending an email to the Division 3 email. If parties decide to go forward with their CMC, it will be on the same day and time as previously noticed and will be conducted by telephone as set forth herein.
Pre-Trial Conferences (PTC)
While trials currently scheduled between March 26th and April 17th will need to be continued, the Court will hold telephonic PTCs in order to get those cases scheduled for a new trial date or another CMC. The telephonic PTCs will be on the same days and times as previously noticed.
All Other Matters, Motions, and Proceedings
Please contact the Court via the Division 3 email, with a copy to all parties, to begin a dialogue about how to proceed.
Manatee County Family Law Division 3 Telephonic Hearing Protocols During COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
If approved by the court for telephonic hearing, the following protocols must be followed:
- There will not be an audio recording made of the hearing, and court reporters cannot be accommodated.
- Requirements and protocols for telephonic appearances must be followed, including the need for a notary public or other authorized official to administer an oath as required by Rule 2.530, Florida Rules of Judicial Administration, and AOSC20-16.
- Manatee County Family Law Division 3 has established a telephone conference call number that must be used by the parties for telephonic hearings. The call-in information is:
- Telephone Number – 1-978-990-5000
- Access Code – 329045#
- At least 24 hours prior to the hearing time, the party who scheduled the hearing must:
- Prepare a Notice of Telephonic Hearing that includes: the case style, names of the parties, and the case number; the motion/matter to be heard; the date, time, and call-in information for the conference call (see #3 above); and a certificate of service indicating who the motion was served upon and the method of service;
- Electronically file (e-file) the Notice of Telephonic Hearing with the Manatee Clerk of Court through the Florida Courts E-Filing Portal;
- Send a copy of the Notice of Telephonic Hearing to all parties and to the court at the Division 3 e-mail; and
- Provide the Court and all parties with copies of any documents or case law to be used or referred to during the hearing.
- Actual notice must be provided to all parties and affected non-parties, unless actual notice is impossible or impracticable, in which case the court will inquire at the beginning of the hearing as to why actual notice was impossible or impracticable and decide whether or not to go forward with the hearing.
- Parties and attorneys must call in to the conference call at exactly the time that their hearing is noticed to begin. For scheduling reasons, hearings must end on time, and parties and attorneys must hang up once their hearing is concluded
- Multiple cases are noticed for CMCs and PTCs. When calling in for CMC and PTC, please have your telephone muted until your case is called by the Court.
- Parties and attorneys shall not participate in the conference call using a speaker phone.
- Anyone attending the conference call will be required to announce themselves prior to the hearing beginning or when they join the call.
- Once attendees have announced themselves, they should mute their telephones
- In order to promote clarity and allow the court to hear and understand the issues being discussed, parties and attorneys should wait for the court to recognize them before speaking. Parties and attorneys shall refrain from talking over one another or interrupting except to make specific, legal objections.
- If either party intends to introduce physical evidence or exhibits into the record at the hearing, such evidence or exhibits must be pre-marked for identification (see Judge Whyte’s Information & Requirements) and provided to the court via the Division 3 email and other parties at least 24 hours prior to the hearing. Stipulations as to admissibility should be obtained, if possible, prior to the hearing and announced on the record at the start of the hearing. Objections to the evidence or exhibits will be heard during the hearing prior to their acceptance into the record.