More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the widespread closures of public buildings, Miami-Dade courthouses will reopen on June 28.
Miami-Dade’s chief judge made the announcement Wednesday evening, two weeks after the Florida Supreme Court announced it was allowing courts to lift social distancing and mask mandates. Almost half the state’s population has been vaccinated against COVID-19 and the number of infections has been steadily declining.
In Miami-Dade, 1.57 million people have received vaccinations, according to federal data, or about 58 percent of the county.
The decision means judges and lawyers can now begin to chip away at the massive backlog of cases that has built up over the past year. A limited number of jury trials resumed in March, but members of the public were not allowed to observe in person.
As with other public spaces, Miami-Dade’s courthouses were largely shut down in mid-March 2020 as the highly contagious novel coronavirus swept across the globe. The Florida Supreme Court on March 13, 2020, suspended jury trials and speedy trials, while the system contracted with Zoom, the now-ubiquitous video-conferencing service, to start holding virtual hearings.
Zoom court will remain in place for certain hearings, such as minor scheduling matters.
Masks may still be worn, and will be strongly encouraged for those who have not been vaccinated, Chief Judge Bertila Soto announced. “Masks will be provided to court participants upon request,” the announcement read.
Certain staff members — such as judges, clerks and security officers — had already been working at courthouses for much of the past year. Starting Monday, June 21, they also will not have to wear masks.