This morning a trial was scheduled to start before Pinellas County Judge Joseph A. Bulone. Attorneys for the Pinellas Public Defender’s office moved to have the trial continued and have the court revert back to Phase 1 of the Covid transition operational plan under the Florida Supreme Court’s Administrative Order AOSC20-32. The Pinellas County Courthouse is currently operating under Phase 2.
Judge Bulone denied the motion to continue and the trial is underway. Assistant Public Defenders, Allison Ferber Miller and Maria DeLiberato and Bob Dillinger, the elected Public Defender, immediately filed an Emergency Petition for Writ of Mandamus. The Writ of Mandamus in paragraphs 5 and 6 in the Facts portion of the Writ states:
5. “On October 26, 2020, it was announced that an assistant state attorney (“ASA”) working in the CJC tested positive for COVID-19. In response, all the attorneys in the county court divisions E, F and L were sent home from work and instructed to be tested for COVID -19 because of the suspicion that the attorneys working in those divisions may have COVID-19 because of the contact with the individual who tested positive.
6. “In fact, the assistant state attorney trying Petioner’s case admitted on the record today to having contact with the assistant state attorney who tested positive for COVID-19. He volunteered to the trial court that he had had contact with the infected ASA within the last week, or several days prior to him testing positive. He indicated that the infected ASA came into his office, while both individuals were wearing masks, and the infected ASA looked at pictures.”
The attorneys then indicated in the writ, that as of October 25th, the cases in Pinellas County have been on an upward trend over the last 14 days. Judge Bulone responded to the motion by reading into the record a message from Chief Judge Anthony Rondolino:
“The motion addresses requirements and guidelines for transitioning from Phase 1 to Phase 2, both in the AOSC and our AO. The considerations for reverting to a previous operational phase are different. The Chief Judge monitors public health data and local conditions weekly. The Chief Judge did not find it necessary to revert to Phase 1 following the last review. We remain in Phase 2 at this time”
Attorneys Bob Dillinger, Allison Ferber Miller, and Maria DeLiberato stated in the writ that Chief Judge Rondolino’s stated interpretation of the Administrative Orders governing the transitions between these two phases was “inaccurate” READ FULL WRIT below.