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Supreme Court to weigh in on video conferencing hearing for mentally ill patients

November 4, 2016 | Telepresence Options

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Story and images by Florida Record

TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Supreme Court has been asked to weigh in on whether judges should use video conferencing for hearings involving mentally ill patients who were involuntarily committed.

The request comes out of a dispute in Lee County after a judge and magistrate sent an email advising "that they would no longer be commuting to the receiving facilities to hold the statutorily required hearing in person. Instead, the judicial officers would preside remotely from the courthouse via video conference equipment while the patients, witnesses and attorneys would continue to be physically present at the receiving facility evidentiary hearings regarding the involuntary commitment of patients," court documents state.

Patients' attorneys filed a challenge to the ruling saying that hearings should be done in person, not through video conferencing. Court documents indicate there were 15 petitions filed, 14 from patients and one "John Doe." The 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected their challenge in a 2-1 ruling. In the ruling, the court asked the Supreme Court to resolve the issue, stating that "We deny the petitions but certify a question of great public importance to the Florida Supreme Court."

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