Zoom Virtual Jury Selection Held For First Time In Miami On July 9th

Miami has just had the state of Florida’s first virtual jury selection hearing this past Thursday on Zoom. The court case was a disagreement between a homeowner and insurance company. It was a civil case about damages due to Hurricane Irma. 

ZoomPhoto Credit: Courtesy of Shutterstock

Circuit Judge Jennifer D. Bailey was the trial manager responsible for making sure the technichalitis were working. Circuit Judge Beatrice Butchko was the trial judge. “The only part of the jury trial on Zoom is going to be this jury selection part,” Butchko said, as her black labrador retriever Zeus sat behind her.

Judge Butchko said the session was open to the public, and that it would serve as a “learning opportunity.” 

Miami-Dade County’s Eleventh Judicial Circuit is one out of five trial-court circuits state wide, chosen to use the remote technology, and to report recommendations and discovery of any glitches by October 2nd.

“The best thing to do is just if you can isolate yourself like I just did, because I’ve got a big old labrador that is 103 pounds and he is very demanding,” Butchko later said during her instructions.

The National Center for State Courts shared one of many livestreamed links, on the court’s YouTube channel. It presented full footage of Thursday’s four jury panels. The virtual chat included representatives of the American Board of Trial Advocates and law students. 

Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady suspended jury trials on March 13, and authorized using remote technologies in civil jury trials May 21. “The eyes of the country are upon us,” Judge Bailey told potential jurors.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers publicly announced a report on June 2nd stating that a jury selection process that’s virtual “compromises the ability to get up-close and explore potential juror demeanor and bias as expressed through nonverbal communication.”

Concerns aside, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts presented publicly a report on June 4 supporting virtual jury’s and the entire selection process, if the test trials go smoothly. The intent would be to help “each court devise protocols that will minimize the risks to all participants and spectators.”

The process continues to be in use in Miami-Dade with intent on expansion. As for this proceeding, Judge Butchko requested jurors to keep an eye on their computer for any new virtual court notifications.

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