PLEASE READ CAREFULLY – IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT APPEARING FOR COURT USING ZOOM
Due to the restrictions on courthouse access caused by the Coronavirus, hearings and dockets for Judge Don T. Hall and Judge Guy A. Flowers will be conducted remotely using Zoom videoconferencing. In an effort to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of these proceedings, the Court offers the following guidance to the litigants. If you have any additional questions about these procedures, please contact judicial assistants Anita Collins (Judge Hall) or Amanda Nelson (Judge Flowers) at (863) 993-4644. Please review all of the procedures prior to contacting the Judges’ offices.
General Information about Zoom:
Zoom is free for you to use as a participant because the Court is the host of the Zoom meeting. You do not need to create an account or login. To be able to use the full audio/video capability of Zoom, you will need to have access to a computer, tablet or smartphone with a camera.
How to Appear by Zoom:
Appearing by Zoom is intended to be as easy as possible for litigants. To appear, just type in your search bar or click on the Zoom link provided in your hearing notice. This will take you directly to the Zoom website or the Zoom app if you have it downloaded on your device.
Another way to appear is by going through Zoom’s website directly. To do so, navigate your web browser to http://zoom.us. Then, click on the link at the top of the page for “Join a Meeting.”
Then input the Meeting ID number, click “Join” and then follow the instructions on screen.
During your hearing, the Court may send you to a “breakout room.” Breakout rooms are intended to be used in much the same way as a side room in a traditional courtroom to give a smaller number of participants more privacy to discuss their case without interrupting the ongoing proceedings. Commonly the court will use breakout rooms to allow attorneys and clients to confer with each other in private, as well as to allow opposing parties in a case to discuss a possible settlement.
Once you are sent to a breakout room, it is important to know how to get back into the main Zoom room once you are finished. The way you leave the breakout room is different depending on the device you are using to attend the hearing.
Computer or Tablet
For persons appearing on a computer or tablet, when ready to return to the main room, click on the red button at the bottom right corner of the screen labeled “Leave” and then choose “Leave Breakout Room.” DO NOT choose “Leave Meeting” or this will end your connection to the overall Zoom hearing.
Android or iOS
For persons appearing on an Android or iOS smartphone device, when you are ready to return to the main room, click on the red button in the upper right corner of the screen labeled “Leave” and then choose “Leave Breakout Room.” DO NOT choose “Leave Meeting” or this will end your connection to the overall Zoom hearing.
For persons appearing for the hearing by dialing in on a telephone, when you are ready to return to the main room, simply press the “#” key.
Chromebooks/Chrome OS or Zoom Rooms
At this time, participants using a Chromebook, the Chrome OS or joining the Zoom session through the Zoom Rooms app are unable to participate in a breakout room.
The Court requests that all participants designate their proper first and last names to appear on the screen during the Zoom hearing. This effort will help the Court tremendously in keeping track of which parties/participants are in attendance, and may help avoid an unintentional default or dismissal of a case.
If you have not already designated your name on screen to appear as your first and last name, you can also do so from within the “Participants” tab at the bottom of the screen. First, click on “Participants” which will open up a list of all attendees currently in the room. Second, click on the “Rename” button at the bottom. Third, in the dialog box that appears, enter your first and last name and then click the “OK” button.
Attorneys are also asked to make sure their name on Zoom includes “Esq.” or “Attorney” (preferably in all caps) so that the Court can recognize all licensed attorneys present for the hearing. As a professional courtesy, the Court will attempt to call attorneys’ cases early in the session whenever it is feasible to do so.
Exhibits & Evidence
- Exhibits: If you have exhibits that you intend to use at the hearing/trial, you must e-file documents and other exhibits using the Florida Courts E-Filing Portal.
- The E-Filing portal, which is free to use, click here to access the portal.
- Due to increased usage of the E-filing Portal, it is strongly encouraged that you e-file exhibits at least three (3) working days prior to the hearing.
- Exhibits must be separately marked as “Plaintiff’s Ex. A, B, C…” or “Defendant’s Ex. A, B. C…” as appropriate.
- Documents and exhibits not e-filed may not be considered by the Court at the hearing.
- If an exhibit is not capable of being e-filed, you should notify the presiding judge’s judicial assistant in writing at least 5 days prior to the scheduled hearing date. Prior to notifying the court you should determine whether the opposing party objects to the introduction of the exhibit and advise the court as to the nature of the proposed exhibit, the purpose for which you intend to introduce the exhibit and whether the opposing party objects to the introduction of the exhibit.
- To receive timely notification of the Zoom meeting, it is suggested that you register an email address with the Clerk of Court. If the Clerk of Court does not have an email address on file for you, you will receive notice of the hearing via U.S. Mail delivery at your last known address on file with the Clerk of Court.
- Click here to register an email address, fill out and e-file the Clerk’s form.
- Prior to the hearing, you will receive an email invitation from the Judge’s Judicial Assistant which will include a link to the Zoom hearing. To attend the hearing, all you need to do is click on the link provided.
- If you or your witnesses wish to provide sworn testimony through Zoom or by telephone, you/they must either appear by video or have a licensed notary or other official authorized to administer oaths at your/their location.
Remember, even though your hearing is happening over the phone or through the internet, it is a court proceeding. You should act the way you would if you were in the courtroom in person. Court rules and standards apply.
Please review the following tips:
- Do let the court know if you don’t have a phone or access to the internet. The court may be able to help you find a way to participate or may postpone the hearing.
- Do visit the video call website (such as Zoom) or a video sharing website (YouTube) for guides, helpful videos, and additional information.
- Do prepare for your virtual hearing. If you plan to participate in your hearing by video, review and/or download the video application before your scheduled hearing. Be sure to test your speaker, microphone, and camera before the hearing. Video call software websites often provide a test link to try your equipment before the actual event.
- Do dress appropriately, like you would if actually going to the courthouse.
- Do limit distractions during your hearing. Put all pets and other things that may be a distraction in a different room. Find a quiet place to participate in the hearing.
- Do keep your device on mute when not speaking. Keeping your phone, mobile device, or computer on mute unless speaking reduces feedback and limits background noise.
- Do call the court in advance if you want to present evidence. If you have documents or witnesses you want available for your hearing, check the judge’s website or call the court for more information.
- Do make sure others using your Wi-Fi network minimize their usage during your hearing so you have the best possible connection.
- Don’t ignore the virtual hearing. If you cannot make the hearing or have a conflict, notify the court.
- Don’t talk over others, it makes it hard for the judge and others to hear. Wait to speak until asked to by the judge.
- Don’t do other things while on the call. Just like in an actual courtroom, you must pay attention to make sure you don’t miss something important that is said or something the judge asks you to do.