Attorney Rachel Mattie Weighs in on Court Changes After COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the court practices we once knew. Before there were no masks, lockdowns, and layoffs, thousands of court proceedings took place in-person daily. As cases spiked across the United States, courts were left empty—a reality we’ve never imagined. We’ve seen trials postponed, virtual hearings for civil cases, outbreaks in prisons, and the release of non-violent offenders.
After a long eight months, the courts are finally searching for ways to safely reinstate in-person litigation, especially for criminal matters. Jurors, judges, attorneys, plaintiffs, and defendants are facing unprecedented challenges as legal processes that have existed for centuries no longer suffice during a pandemic. As trials restart this week in Orange County, Florida, here are some new coronavirus-related provisions you can expect to see in court.
The “New Normal” for Courts After COVID-19
The reconfiguration of courtrooms and jury spaces has one main purpose: to protect the health and safety of all who enter the courthouse. The new normal starts with much smaller panels of jurors as well as health screenings and no-contact thermometer checks at the door. Before COVID-19, there weren’t many legitimate excusable reasons for missing jury duty—a civic duty that’s required by law. Now, jurors who feel sick or show symptoms of the virus must stay home. Other exemptions highlighted by the Florida Supreme Court include:
- Being part of a high-risk group
- Being a caretaker for a child or family member
- Having recently returned to work after unemployment
- Having endured financial or personal loss
Jurors will be seated six feet apart in the courtroom, wearing masks with foam strips and fully transparent shields so facial gestures can be easily recognizable to courtroom members. In order for witnesses to testify, they will be provided clear masks. Attorneys and clients will also be required to wear masks and social distance while conversing with one another.
Other Safety Precautions Being Implemented in Court
With much uncertainty and many afraid to catch the virus or infect a loved one, courts are having to go above and beyond in demonstrating that it’s safe for players in the trial courtroom to return to courthouses. Orange County courthouse has administered the following safety precautions. Courtrooms will:
- Be frequently and regularly disinfected
- Undergo professional deep cleanings at the end of each day
- Prohibit the transportation of inmates showing symptoms of the virus
- Have plexiglass barriers installed around witness stands and jury spaces
- Have increased airflow
- Have cleaning supplies, instructions for health and safety, water bottles, and personal protective gear for all inhabitants
Although the rigorous health measures are being executed, many attorneys, including Attorney Rachel Mattie of The Umansky Law Firm, bear some concern with this “new normal.”
Concerns and Complications With New Standards for Courts
Attorney Mattie, a member of both the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Central Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, is concerned about her ability to communicate discreetly with clients while wearing masks in trial. When immediate decisions in court must be made, attorneys must consult their clients in order to achieve their goals. Unfortunately, “being able to do so safely through a mask might not be feasible,” Mattie says.
Attorney Mattie also sheds light on the complications associated with the reduced number of judges overseeing trails. Her clients are ready for answers—they’re ready to make progress with their case and uphold their constitutional rights. Unfortunately, with over 200 cases that may go to trial in the next month, this means that judges will bear the burden of getting up to date on unfamiliar cases.
Don’t Navigate the Justice System on Your Own. Call The Umansky Law Firm.
Undoubtedly, times have changed. COVID-19 has severely impacted the criminal justice system and will continue to do so as virus-related policies change. At The Umansky Law Firm, one thing that hasn’t changed is our commitment to you. Through these troubling times, we persevere and adapt to adversity to guarantee our clients receive the best possible representation they deserve—no matter the circumstances we’re up against.
Our very own colleague, Attorney Rachel Mattie, is working tirelessly to help her clients navigate through the justice system, ensuring that each client’s constitutional rights are protected. Here at The Umansky Law Firm, we take pride in having assembled a passionate and aggressive team of criminal attorneys—some of the best in the practice. More importantly, we are proud of our attorney–client relationships and value open communication, attention, and transparency. Speak with one of our Board-Certified attorneys today by calling our office or completing a contact form. Rest easy knowing your case is in qualified hands.