The coronavirus pandemic has changed how we do so many things, and legal proceedings are no exception. Arbitrators and parties going through arbitration have had a difficult road navigating a critical issue; the right to an in-person arbitration hearing. Remote proceedings can be complicated when one party prefers virtual. The party insists on an in-person hearing if their evidence remotely will be limited or if an arbitrator’s technical experience is lacking. Furthermore, physical evidence is difficult to present remotely or an inability to effectively present a case across different time zones, giving one party an unfair advantage.
If one party is unwilling to wait for the COVID-19 pandemic to be over to conduct an in-person hearing, difficulties may arise. Contractual time limitations and timing requirements in arbitration rules may make postponing a hearing an impossibility.
On May 7, 2021, Chief Justice Charles Canady amended three of the administrative orders issued during the pandemic. The amended orders state the need for continued social distancing and face masks but specify their required use during in-person courtroom proceedings only.
Chief Justice Canady explained that Florida courts had taken steps to safely operate the judicial branch for more than a year, which resulted in most in-person court proceedings being suspended during that time. The latest amendments reflect a positive change in the current state of the pandemic.
While remote arbitration is likely to remain for the duration of the pandemic, arbitrators can and should continue to ensure that their parties and witnesses are not required to present evidence or participate in hearings remotely. If a party wants to provide an in-person hearing, that party should include mandatory language in the contractual arbitration.
Paul J. Burkhart
If you have questions about in-person hearings, contact the Law Offices of Paul J. Burkhart, P.L. The Law Offices of Paul J.Burkhart have experienced attorneys who can help you with the hardships businesses face.
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