Chief Judge rules some in-person hearings can go forward

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Judge Christopher Patterson, the chief judge for the 14th Judicial Circuit, ordered that some members of the bar and some defendants can return to the courthouse.

The order follows the coronavirus pandemic that began earlier this year and the loosening of restrictions in the state of Florida.

The June 2 order notes that if inmates are in custody their hearing will continue to be held on zoom. But defendants who are not being held in the jail can return to court to attend hearings. However, the order contains strict rules for who can and cannot attend hearings.

Everyone entering the courthouse will be subject to screening protocols and “recommended to wear a cloth mask.” The social distancing and hygiene mandates that come from the Centers for Disease Control “shall be respected by all participants,” Patterson wrote.

Finally, those who are required to be at court should, “Expect delays associated with movement of persons throughout the courthouse,” Patterson wrote. “Expect longer than normal court days, or additional court days added to accommodate the backlog of cases due to the pandemic.”

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