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How do Florida Courts work?

The Supreme Court is the highest court authority in the state of Florida, and has the ability to review decisions made by the Court of Appeals. This allows them to settle any key questions or debates over laws, conflicts, and precedents. The Court of Appeals mainly deals with cases under review from an inferior court decision. These inferior courts are the superior and trial courts, in which most cases across the 67 counties begin. There is one Supreme Court in the state, five district Courts of Appeals, 20 circuit courts, and 67 county courts. There are seven justices of the Supreme Court and 60 justices of the Florida District Courts of Appeals.

Limited Civil Cases and Small Claims

Limited civil cases are those in which over $15,000 is claimed for by the petitioner. However, civil cases can include non-monetary disputes, such as ownership, name changes, and restraining orders. Small claims court deals with claims of $5,000 or under, with nearly 100,000 filed each year across Florida. These cases are not represented by a council. Some examples of small claims cases are: refusal to return deposits, refusal to pay for repairs, warranty claims, money lending, and more. The small claims court has the power to order the defendant into an action, such as paying a debt.

Appeals and court limits

There are some subtle and some rather significant differences between civil court and small claims court in Florida. For starters, pre-trial discovery is only allowed in civil cases. In civil court, either party can have a lawyer file papers and attend court on their behalf, where as in small claims court this cannot be done unless it is during an appeal. The filing fee in small claims is $30-$100, far less than the $180-$320 in civil court. In small claims, each party has 30-70 days to complete their case, compared to the 120 days after a complaint is made in civil courts. In small claims court you don’t need a US citizenship to file/defend a case. Either party without a decent understanding of the English language may hire an interpreter. Finally, in civil cases either party can appeal, where as only the defendant can appeal in a small claims court.

Why are court records public?

The Sunshine Law was established in 1966 by the Florida State Legislature to act as an addition to the Freedom of Information act passed in the same year. The law and act allow Florida residents to obtain public records of government bodies whenever they please. The Sunshine Law declared that access to this information by the people was the duty of the state agencies. This was done to promote public access to said records, claiming that record automation would not dent the people’s right to access them.

 

Florida Court Structure
Florida State Archives

State Archives

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Florida

Florida’s Osceola County Courthouse was built between 1889 and 1890.

  • There are 4 types of courts in the state of Florida. They are the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the Circuit Courts, and the County Courts.
  • The Florida Supreme Court has seven positions who each serve 6 year terms.
  • The Supreme Court was founded in 1845 upon Florida achieving statehood, and is headquartered in the state capital of Tallahassee.
  • The Florida District Courts of Appeals are the intermediate appellate courts in Florida, and represent the 5 appellate districts in the state.
  • Florida has 67 County Courts that serve as the general jurisdiction courts for each of the state’s counties. 

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