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Divisional Instructions and procedures of General Magistrate Thomas R. Baker during COVID-19 Pandemic

Based upon Administrative Order of the Florida Supreme Court and this Circuit, the following Divisional Instructions and Procedures govern cases pending before General Magistrate Thomas R. Baker. The Florida Supreme Court has determined that "essential" in-person court proceedings are being held in Marchman Act cases. The remainder of the cases handled by the General Magistrate are being conducted remotely. Because the situation with the Coronavirus Pandemic is a fluid situation, circumstances may change from time to time as the Florida Supreme Court issues new administrative orders and as the Chief Judge of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit implements COVID-19 practice and procedures through local Administrative Orders. Therefore, when in doubt about what is occurring first check the court as well as the website for updates. If any questions remain thereafter, call the General Magistrate's Office at: 1-(561)-624-6681. The following Coronavirus Pandemic Divisional Instructions and Procedures apply to the cases involving both attorneys and self-represented litigants.

Marchman Act Cases

These are the only in-person proceedings being conducted by the General Magistrate during his P.M. Thursday, Marchman Act Docket. Because of social distancing requirements, the General Magistrate is using Courtroom #3 at the North County Courthouse to conduct these in-person hearings.

Baker Act Cases

At the present time these cases are being conducted electronically by telephone.

Family Cases

NO IN-PERSON APPEARANCES AT THE COURTHOUSE ARE PERMITTED FOR THIS TYPE OF HEARING as the family matters being conducted by the General Magistrate have currently been defined by the Florida Supreme Court as "non-essential" and are instead being conducted REMOTELY. The General Magistrate is still conducting evidentiary and Non-Jury Trials on a daily basis. As such, the Parties and Attorneys shall appear via ZOOM (by telephone or video via the internet) as detailed below.

U.M.C. Hearings and Evidentiary Hearings

All UMC and Evidentiary hearings will be conducted by telephone or video-conferencing and remain as scheduled. Please include the below Zoom information in your Notice of Hearing.

As of January 25, 2021, ZOOM instructions for all UMC and Evidentiary hearings are as follows:

Zoom Meeting Information

Meeting ID: 843 2832 2218
AUDIO ONLY: by calling:
  • US Toll-free 877-853-5257
  • US Toll-free 888-475-4499

When prompted enter,
Meeting ID: 843 2832 2218

Electronic Submission of Documentary Evidence (i.e., Exhibits)

If you wish to introduce documentary evidence to the General Magistrate in the form of exhibits at your hearing or Non-Jury Trial please comply with the following procedure. Documentary evidence includes any papers, photographs, or other items that can reasonably be shared electronically.

If the documents comprising your exhibits total 10 pages or less, then submit at least 7 days prior to the hearing or Non-Jury Trial. Attorneys and self-represented parties shall submit the documents in electronic format to the General Magistrate's Office through the CAD-Box at CAD-NCHRoom1418@pbcgov.org.

If the documents comprising your exhibits exceed 10 pages, then you must submit hard copies of the documents to the General Magistrate's office by mail at least 7 days prior to the hearing or Non-Jury Trial.

You must send these documents to the opposing party at the same time you submit same to the General Magistrate, in the same method as submitted to the General Magistrate. If the documents have not been submitted to the other party then the evidence will not be considered by the General Magistrate. Please be cautioned that the electronic submission of these documents is being permitted under the "emergency" process triggered by the Coronavirus Pandemic. Your submission of the documents to the General Magistrate does not guarantee the admissibility of same into evidence and each party is required to lay the appropriate foundation for the admissibility of each piece of evidence under the Florida Rules Of Evidence. Finally, you are cautioned that confidential information (such as Bank Accounts and Social Security Numbers, etc.) should be removed from documents provided to the Magistrate as required by Fla. R. Jud. Admin., Rule 2.420(d).

If the parties attempt to comply in good faith with these instructions governing the submission of documentary evidence but technological issues prevent a meaningful submission or review of the evidence through remote means, the General Magistrate may continue or reset the evidentiary hearing or Non-Jury Trial to ensure that due process is complied with.

Remote Hearing and Non-Jury Trial Etiquette

Although hearings and Non-Jury Trials are being conducted remotely, they are still Court proceedings and as such are to be conducted with the same dignity and protocol that would apply if the parties and attorney appeared in person. As such, all participants should conduct themselves accordingly.

General Magistrate Baker is required to record all hearings and Non-Jury Trials in order to create and preserve an appellate record. As such, the Parties and Attorneys are cautioned that when appearing remotely either telephonically or via ZOOM, each should be in a quiet, secluded room without children, music, pets, or other audible and visual distractions that would prevent the Court from creating a clear and pristine official audio and video recording of these proceedings. Because of the visual aspect of ZOOM each person appearing should be appropriately attired. Witnesses other than the Parties should be secluded and not present in the same "room" with the attorney and party until called as a witness at the hearing.

In the event the court returns to conducting in-person hearings at some future date the authority to permit your appearance by Zoom may be rescinded. Therefore, it is your obligation to go on-line to the 15th Judicial Circuit's website for this General Magistrate and/or contact the General Magistrate's office prior to your hearing to confirm whether it will conducted in-person or remotely.

For information on court procedures see Divisional Instructions