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Know Your Court: County Court Jurisdictional Changes Coming January 1, 2020

On May 24, 2019, the Governor signed House Bill 337 which was previously passed by the Florida legislature. This law makes major changes to the jurisdictional limits of the Florida Courts. 

Currently, county courts in Florida have jurisdiction of all claims up to $15,000.00 and circuit court has jurisdiction for claims in excess of $15,000.00.

Under this new law, the jurisdiction of county court is increased to $30,000.00 effective January 1, 2020. As a result, after January 1, 2020, the jurisdiction for the circuit courts will be for any claims in excess of $30,000.00. Then on January 1, 2023, the jurisdiction of the county court is increased to include claims up to $50,000.00, which will give the circuit courts jurisdiction in any claim in excess of $50,000.00.

Small claims court is a division of county court and currently small claims court and small claims procedures apply to claims up to $5,000.00. A Supreme Court workgroup studying judicial caseloads last year recommended raising the small claims jurisdiction to $8,000 and the court passed that to the Small Claims Rules Committee for action. Starting January 1, 2020, the jurisdictional amounts for small claims courts will be raised from $5,000 to $8,000 and also requires those filing civil actions in county court to list the amount in controversy.

To summarize, on January 1, 2020, changes in Florida state law and the Florida Rules of Procedure will go into effect, changing where a variety of court actions are heard.

  • County court jurisdictional thresholds increase to $30,000 on January 1, 2020, and to $50,000 on January 1, 2023.
  • Small claims cases on January 1, 2020, will include cases up to $8,000.
  • Filers will be required to include a civil cover sheet specifying the dollar amount in dispute in cases exceeding $8,000 in value.
  • The new law maintains current rules that limits the provision of subsidized court mediation services to county court cases with an amount in controversy up to $15,000.
  • State law provides that on January 1, 2020, appeals of county court orders or judgments with an amount in controversy greater than $15,000 will be heard by the district courts of appeal until January 1, 2023, when the provision repeals. 

What You Need to Know About the Florida Court System

Florida has 67 county courts, 20 circuit courts, five district courts of appeal, and then the Supreme Court for the entire state. The Office of the State Courts Administrators serves as the administrative arm of the Florida Supreme Court and was formed in 1972.

County Courts

The Florida state constitution states that there must be one county court in each of Florida’s 67 counties. County courts are where smaller cases are resolved, such as traffic claims, misdemeanors and monetary issues of a smaller denomination ($15,000 or less).

Circuit Courts

The circuit courts primarily handle civil cases where the monetary issues are larger than $15,000, and felony criminal cases, as well as appeals from county courts. There are 20 judicial circuits in Florida, including: 

  • First Circuit – Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton
  • Second Circuit – Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, and Wakulla
  • Third Circuit – Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee and Taylor
  • Fourth Circuit – Clay, Duval and Nassau
  • Fifth Circuit – Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter
  • Sixth Circuit – Pasco and Pinellas
  • Seventh Circuit – Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns and Volusia
  • Eighth Circuit – Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy, and Union
  • Ninth Circuit – Orange and Osceola
  • Tenth Circuit – Hardee, Highlands, and Polk
  • Eleventh Circuit – Miami-Dade
  • Twelfth Circuit – DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota
  • Thirteenth Circuit – Hillsborough
  • Fourteenth Circuit – Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson and Washington
  • Fifteenth Circuit – Palm Beach
  • Sixteenth Circuit – Monroe
  • Seventeenth Circuit – Broward
  • Eighteenth Circuit – Brevard and Seminole
  • Nineteenth Circuit – Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie
  • Twentieth Circuit – Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee

District Courts of Appeal

These are located in Tallahassee, Miami, Lakeland, West Palm Beach and Daytona Beach. These courts provide review of decisions from the lower courts. They correct errors and ensure that decisions are consistent with both statutes and the state and federal constitutions. The decisions reached at these courts usually represent the final review of cases, but they can reach the Supreme Court of Florida if that court chooses to look at the case.
Florida Supreme Court

Mandatory Jurisdiction: The Court MUST review:

  • final orders imposing death sentences,
  • district court decisions declaring a State statute or provision of the State Constitution invalid,
  • bond validations,
  • certain orders of the Public Service Commission on utility rates and services. 

“Mandatory” jurisdiction defines those cases that, under the constitutional and statutory framework of a state, must be considered and decided by the court as a matter of right if properly filed.

Discretionary Jurisdiction: The Court, in addition to these forms of mandatory review authority, if discretionary review is sought by a party, the Court at its discretion MAY review

  • any decision of a district court of appeal that expressly declares valid a state statute,
  • construes a provision of the state or federal constitution,
  • affects a class of constitutional or state officers,
  • directly conflicts with a decision of another district court or of the Supreme Court on the same question of law,
  • certified as great public importance,
  • certified direct conflict,
  • certified judgment of trial courts,
  • certified question from federal courts.

“Discretionary” jurisdiction defines the class of cases where a petition seeking review, if granted, would result in the case being considered and decided on the merits.

If  you have any questions about the jurisdictional changes coming in 2020, please do not hesitate to contact our Florida Attorneys at Whittel & Melton for further guidance.

 

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