MIAMI (WSVN) - The coronavirus pandemic has affected the judicial system, and South Florida judges are turning to technology as a tool to get business done in the courts.

The Miami-Dade courthouse building has been closed for three weeks due to COVID-19, but court remains in session thanks to video conferencing technology.

Thanks to permission from the Florida Supreme Court, judges and staff have prepared a Zoom platform to conduct virtual courtroom proceedings.

Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Jeri Beth Cohen has been home for three weeks. She and 120 other judges are learning to use the Zoom platform to hold virtual hearings.

“It’s basically the judge and the lawyers,” Cohen said. “I think it works very well. In fact, it’s wonderful because the judge basically controls who’s talking and who’s talking to whom, and the lawyers have to raise their hand on Zoom to be able to speak.”

Cohen said the system is working for civil matters. However, criminal court is a different story.

“Well, you’ve got to see people in court,” she said. “Defendants have a right to be in court, and you’re dealing with people that are in custody and that may need to be brought over. It makes it much more difficult, so we like to see the defendants. The judge likes to talk to them. We like to talk to our participants, see how they’re doing. You’ve got to be able to get them linked in on Zoom.”

As far as Cohen is concerned, the future could entail some proceedings being conducted with virtual courtrooms.

“I think that this is going to be a game changer, both in the civil and the family division and possibly in the probate division, as well, especially for motion practice, so lawyers are not going to have to come in to sit, to wait to see the judge,” Cohen said. “Obviously, jury trials can’t be done over this technology, but for the vast amount of work that goes on, motion practice, you can.”

Cohen admits some bugs still need to be worked out with the Zoom platform, which is known to cut off at times.

Courts in Broward County have been closed since mid-March. As of Friday, only bond court has been held via Zoom.

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