Florida Courts: An Overview

Florida’s Chief Justice recently issued a final rule over a perceived controversy on judicial attire. According to a news report, some judges decided to wear other than traditional black robes during court. One judge switched to a blue set of robes, while other judges wore camo robes while presiding in court. But the Chief Justice put it all to an end when he handed down a rule saying that judges shall wear black robes with no embellishment during court. The ruling was received with mixed responses, but it is anticipated that all judges will comply.

This story gives us a good opportunity to review Florida’s judicial system as a whole. There are four levels of courts in Florida, each with its own purpose and jurisdiction. Below is an overview of Florida’s courts.

Trial Court System

Florida’s trial courts are split into two different bodies. The primary and first court that any Florida citizen will interact with are the county courts. Florida has 67 counties, and therefore there are 67 county courts. These courts are often times referred to as “the people's courts” because here is where small citizen disputes are resolved, minor traffic offenses, and other, minor criminal charges.

The next level up are circuit trial courts. Circuit trial courts are where the majority of legal proceedings take place. Florida law establishes 20 judicial circuits throughout the state, each with a court and number of judges. Judicial circuit courts are courts of general jurisdiction, which means that they can handle both complex civil lawsuits involving millions of dollars, or serious criminal charges including homicide.

There are two different ways county and circuit court judges become judges. The primary way is through elections for a six-year term. The second way is through appointment by the governor when there is a vacancy be a judge who leaves office.

Appellate Court System

Like the trial court system, there are two levels in Florida’s appellate system. The lower level is the District Court of Appeal, and there are five districts. The official title of district court judges is justice, and they are appointed by the governor and are voted every six years to stay by voters. If voters are not pleased with the work district court justices have done, they are voted out and a new justice is appointed. As a general rule, district court rulings are the final say in cases, with a few exceptions.

This brings us to Florida’s Supreme Court. Just like district court justices, Florida Supreme Court justices are appointed by the governor and face a retention vote every six years. There are seven justices that serve on the court, and theirs is the final say on issues of what the law means in Florida. Typically, the Florida Supreme Court will only take cases when there is a split of opinion on a point of law among the district courts of appeal, or if it is an important issue where the justices feel like they need to decide.

A Law Firm for You

At The Pittman Firm, we represent victims of personal injury and accidents. When it comes to understanding Florida’s judicial system and getting justice for our clients, we do all we can. Contact us so we can evaluate your case for you.

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