Florida attorneys try to adjust to pandemic concerns


TAMPA (WFLA) – Tampa Attorney Bryant Camareno admits his workday efficiency has increased as a result of the pandemic. Camareno and many other attorneys are now doing their work remotely as the court system is increasingly taking advantage of technology.

“In terms of productivity, it’s easier for us to get things done, if I have a hearing in Pinellas County, instead of driving 30 to 40 minutes out there and 30 to 40 minutes back, we are getting it done in the comfort of our homes, or our home office or at the office. A 20, 30-minute zoom appearance, and we’re done” said Camareno.

Unfortunately some of his clients and the clients of many other defense attorney’s are stuck in limbo. Some are in jail and others waiting as they are out on bond and they are not able to move forward because jury trials across Florida have been put on hold by the Florida Supreme Court.

“Most of us criminal defense attorneys, we have an average of 10 to 15 inmates that are in jail waiting trial, waiting hearings and for them there is no movement and they are just sitting there waiting and we’re all waiting,” said Camareno.

From high profile murder trials to average theft and drug trials, defendants are being forced to wait for their day in court.

“It’s the ones that are charged with a second degree felony, had a bond revoked, a violation of probation, those are the ones that are seeing very little movement and those are the ones that normally this case could have been resolved within a month,” said Camareno.

Hillsborough County Chief Judge Ronald Ficarrotta says many court functions are still going on with the use of technology.

“The courts are open for business. We are ensuring that the citizens of Hillsborough County have access to our courts,” said Ficarrotta.

The Chief Judge says civil court and family court are still proceeding.

“Our probate division is working. Out very important juvenile dependency and our juvenile delinquency hearings are still going on and over in family law people are still getting divorced and fortunately children are still being adopted,” said Ficarrotta.

Ficarrotta credits judges and attorneys for being able to adapt to the current situation.

“I think the courts are feeling more and more comfortable with this use of technology. I think our judges have really adapted to it and embraced it. I think it’s something that is going to stay with us even as we move past what we are dealing here with the COVID-19, making use of technology so people don’t have to come to the courthouse,” said Ficarrotta.

However the judge admits it may be a while before all normal court proceedings can continue.

“I’ve got meetings constantly with our fellow stakeholders, how are we going to do this? How are we going to get the jurors into the courthouse? We’re not going to do anything that’s going to threaten the health of anyone” said Ficarrotta.

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