Miami-Type ‘Digital’ Justice Throughout COVID: A Mannequin for Different Cities?


COVID-19 has triggered many companies within the Miami-Dade area to stop operation, but it surely has not prevented us or the courts from doing our jobs.

On the Miami-Dade County (Florida) State Lawyer’s Workplace, we’re doing our half to stop the virus from spreading whereas fulfilling our public security duties.

We partnered with native stakeholders, together with the courts, the Clerk’s Workplace, Corrections, and the Public Defender’s Workplace and protection bars to develop and execute measures that make sure the wheels of justice maintain turning.

Drawing on our prior expertise managing different main crises like hurricanes, we transitioned to “mission-critical” standing shortly and easily.

katherine fernandez rundle

State Lawyer Katherine Fernandez Rundle

The transition to digital techniques has not been straightforward.

Our Management Staff and Info Methods workers labored lengthy hours to create new processes that enable us to serve the general public with modern sources like “digital courtrooms” and different instruments that assist workers stay productive whereas working remotely.

Although we returned to operational standing in June, the digital pathways we created enable most of our 1,200 workers to make money working from home on any given day. This permits us to meet our duties whereas defending our most valuable useful resource, our workers.

Under are among the adjustments now we have made:

      • New procedures allow us to acquire defendants’ state and nationwide priors, evaluation and assign circumstances, and electronically file and serve all our authorized pleadings, together with charging paperwork, shortly and effectively.
      • Kiosks on the Juvenile Evaluation Middle and our most important constructing enable prosecutors to interview victims, witnesses and cops remotely.
      • Quite a lot of new techniques facilitate digital conferences, conferences, interviews, pre-files, and courtrooms. As a part of this mammoth effort, Info Methods configured and distributed an extra 308 laptops to SAO workers, supplied the Administrative Workplace of the Courts with 235 webcams, and gave the Miami-Dade Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation (MDCR) 20 laptops to facilitate their participation in “digital court docket.”

Different COVID-era adjustments embody a system to offer interpreters for a number of languages through distant platforms or phone; a hotline for the general public to report price-gouging and he institution of a cooperative relationship with Amazon to facilitate investigations and prosecutions of sellers who abuse their platform.

We’ve got additionally created created a distant Little one Assist Name Middle to assist our most weak kids acquire the assist they want, deserve, and are entitled to.

On the primary day of operation, heart workers processed 563 calls.  Between March 16 and July 31, the middle has dealt with over 66,000 calls.

We created inside and exterior internet pages to maintain everybody knowledgeable of what we’re doing and supply the general public with sources concerning the coronavirus.

For instance, see http://www.miamisao.com/COVID19/, in addition to our varied social media pages (www.facebook.com/OfficeOfTheStateAttorney, www.twitter.com/KathyFndzRundle, www.youtube.com/miamisao, www.instagram.com/saomiami, and https://www.linkedin.com/company/miamisao/.

Initially, the courts dealt with solely mission-critical hearings and issues involving in-custody people, together with bond hearings, home violence injunctions, juvenile detention hearings, Baker and Marchman Act hearings, and emergency motions.

Nevertheless, since July 6, the Courts have been addressing all kinds of issues and hearings remotely, aside from jury trials.

Since inception, the prosecutors have turn into fairly expert in conducting digital evidentiary hearings, together with adversarial hearings like Stand Your Floor motions, and Probation Violation Hearings.

Decreasing Jail Numbers by 20%

We even have collaborated with varied stakeholders, together with the police, courts and the Public Defenders’ Workplace, to sluggish the unfold of the virus by lowering our jail inhabitants.

Amongst different measures, we inspired police companies to situation civil citations or guarantees to look as an alternative of arresting folks for minor transgressions; and requested a Chief Assistant State Lawyer to function a “Bail Supervisor” and evaluation all requests for launch.

We labored with Miami-Dade County Public Defende, Carlos Martinez, non-public protection attorneys, and the courts to facilitate the discharge of people who we believed may very well be monitored in a fairly protected method whereas locally from our native jails; and we agreed to launch quite a few inmates whose jail sentences had been nearing completion.

Our mixed efforts have led to an virtually 20 % drop within the jail inhabitants, which is especially gratifying provided that we had already lowered our common every day jail inhabitants by 38 % between 2008 and 2019.

The pandemic, all of us hope, will finally fade, however measures to make sure public well being and security should proceed even once we totally reopen.

To that finish, now we have:

      • Put in thermal cameras succesful to taking a person’s temperature on the entrances of every of our buildings.
      • Put in hand-sanitizing stations at strategic places in our buildings.
      • Offered disinfectant wipes in all frequent space.
      • Positioned signage reminding folks about social distancing and our workplace insurance policies for stopping the unfold of COVID all through our constructing, and positioned plexiglass partitions between cubicles.
      • Cut up workers into shifts to attenuate the quantity of people that will return on the similar time.

Our improvements have allowed us to serve and defend the general public with out requiring folks to come back into our workplaces. They’ve labored so properly that we’re exploring methods to reap the benefits of them even after the disaster ends.

Stephen Talpins

Stephen Talpins

The scenario clearly stays very fluid. We stay dedicated to adapting our insurance policies and procedures to fulfill our collective wants and, most significantly, to maintain everybody protected.

We proceed to fulfill with our felony justice companions weekly to debate present circumstances, points, and different potential options.

We’ve got discovered lots negotiating our means by way of this disaster.

We are going to emerge stronger than ever.

Katherine Fernández Rundle is Miami-Dade State Lawyer. Stephen Ok. Talpins is Assistant State Lawyer and Chief of Workers. They welcome feedback from readers.