DUVAL COUNTY, Fla. – Duval County will be handling Florida’s first fully remote civil jury trial starting on Monday.
The trial, also believed to be the first fully remote trial with a binding verdict in the United States, is set to begin at 9 a.m. According to the Clerk of Courts, the trial can be viewed on Courtroom View Network
With more and more court proceedings taking place virtually, the trial is the result of the Fourth Judicial Circuit being chosen by the state Supreme Court to serve as one of five remote civil trial pilots across the state.
“The first thing that goes through my mind as a lawyer is to say, ‘This is going to be hard to pull off’,” said attorney Gene Nichols, a criminal defense lawyer who is not involved in the case but is familiar with it.
The case centers on a complaint that states a former exotic dancer was injured after a bouncer threw her out of the now-closed Paradise Gentleman’s Club on Baymeadows Road. The plaintiff is asking for damages exceeding $15,000. Court records show the parties involved have signed consent forms saying they have no objections to a remote trial.
Nichols says when selecting a jury, important details attorneys would typically look for inside the courtroom could get lost in translation.
“All he’d most likely be able to see is them from their chest up and just their face,” Nichols said. “How they’d turn their head or not how they would look at somebody else or someone who is not paying attention — all the different subtleties we can learn from jurors.”
DOCUMENT: Read the full complaint
Nichols also talked about technical woes that could arise with the process happening online. He says technical support would most likely be available.
He also says potential jurors becoming distracted at home, as opposed to inside the courtroom, could be an issue. But he believes the judge will lay down the law.
"Not having your email up on your computer while you're participating in jury selection," Nichols said. "Making sure that you're not working or doing anything else, or answering the phones."
Nichols says Zoom jurors will need to be focused. He also says how this new endeavor works out will be crucial in the days to come.
News4Jax also checked with the Clerk of Courts to see if there was any chance a criminal trial could be handled remotely. A spokesperson said there are no plans to do that.