OPPAGA text logo with graphic of FL historic capitol
OPPAGA text logo with graphic of FL historic capitol

State Courts System

Circuit Courts

What is the purpose of the courts?

The circuit courts have general trial jurisdiction over matters not assigned by statute to the county courts. Additionally circuit courts hear appeals from county court cases. Thus, circuit courts are simultaneously the highest trial courts and the lowest appellate courts in Florida's judicial system.

How many circuits are there?

The Legislature has established 20 judicial circuits, with each circuit comprised of one to seven counties.

How many circuit court judges are there?

There are 601 circuit court judges. The number of judges within each circuit ranges from 4 to 80, based on circuit population and caseload.

Who is eligible to be a judge?

To be eligible for the office of circuit judge, a person must be able to vote in a county in the circuit, and must have been a member of the Florida Bar for five years.

How are judges selected?

Judges are elected to a six-year term in nonpartisan, contested elections by voters in the circuit in which they are seeking to take office. Circuit judges are subject to the same disciplinary standards, and to the jurisdiction of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, as all other judicial officers.

What is a chief judge?

In each circuit, the circuit and county judges choose from among the circuit judges a chief judge to carry out administrative responsibilities for all trial courts (both circuit and county courts) within the circuit. A trial court administrator and support staff in each judicial circuit assist the chief judge in performing administrative duties.

What types of cases do the circuit courts hear?

Circuit courts have general trial jurisdiction over matters not assigned by statute to the county courts. Circuit courts also hear appeals from county court cases. The jurisdiction of circuit courts includes, in part, civil disputes not under the jurisdiction of the county courts; cases relating to juveniles; criminal prosecutions for all felonies; family law; probate; and tax disputes.
Within the circuit courts, there are various programs and activities to enhance their effectiveness, including those described below.
  • Problem-Solving Courts. These courts offer a specialized court docket and are administered by a problem-solving team using a non-adversarial approach which offers a continuum of individualized treatment services.In Florida, these courts include
  • Drug Courts. Drug Courts place substance abusers entering the criminal court system into treatment under monitoring by a judge and a team of treatment and criminal justice professionals. The program requires defendants to submit to drug-testing and court monitoring. Violation of program rules are met with graduated sanctions, whereas incentives are offered for successful progression and completion. As of March 2019, Florida has 92 drug courts in operation, including 54 adult, 20 juvenile, 14 family dependency, and 4 DUI courts.
  • Early Childhood Courts. As of March 2019, there are 22 early childhood courts in Florida, which are designed to address child welfare cases involving children under the age of three.Through specializing on a type of family law cases, early childhood courts aim to shorten the time to closure, which is the time from the removal to the time the child's case is closed through reunification, adoption, or permanent guardianship.
  • Mental Health Courts. These programs aim to divert defendants with serious mentally ill away traditional criminal justice stations, towards court monitored treatment services. Similar to drug court, these programs offer defendants access to treatment, training, and support services and aim to reduce recidivism and criminal justice related costs. As of March 2019, Florida has 25 mental health courts.
  • Veterans Courts. These courts are designed to assist defendants with the complex treatment needs associated with substance abuse, mental health, and other issues unique to the traumatic experience of war. Veterans courts are based on the drug court/problem-solving court model, where an interdisciplinary team of courtroom personnel, law enforcement, services/treatment providers, and veteran volunteers work to address underlying factors, which contribute to criminal behaviors. As of March 2019, Florida has 31 veterans courts in operation.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution/Mediation.Mediation and dispute resolution programs enable participants to remain the primary decision-makers for their own lives instead of relying on the courts for resolution.Programs are organized based on the needs of the court, the availability of volunteers, and the accessibility of funding sources.
  • Self-Help Centers.This court resource provides information for local self-help resources, free and low-cost legal aid, and family law forms for use in dissolution, paternity, child support, name change, and grandparent visitation cases. Self-Help Centers also attempt to connect persons with a civil legal problem who cannot afford to hire a private lawyer to local legal aid organizations, which provide free or low-cost legal services to persons with low incomes.

How many cases do the courts hear?

In Fiscal Year 2017-18, there were 762,685 cases filed and 726,112 cases disposed in circuit courts. Additional statistics are available in the Trial Court Statistical Reference Guide.

How are these activities funded?

Fiscal Year: 2020-21
Fund Salary Rate/ Position General Revenue Trust Funds
SALARY RATE
POSITIONS
SALARIES AND BENEFITS
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
FROM ADMINISTRATIVE TRUST FUND
FROM STATE COURTS REVENUE TRUST FUND
FROM FEDERAL GRANTS TRUST FUND
OTHER PERSONAL SERVICES
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
FROM STATE COURTS REVENUE TRUST FUND
FROM FEDERAL GRANTS TRUST FUND
EXPENSES
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
FROM ADMINISTRATIVE TRUST FUND
FROM STATE COURTS REVENUE TRUST FUND
FROM FEDERAL GRANTS TRUST FUND
OPERATING CAPITAL OUTLAY
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
FROM STATE COURTS REVENUE TRUST FUND
SPECIAL CATEGORIES
PROBLEM SOLVING COURTS
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
FROM STATE COURTS REVENUE TRUST FUND
SPECIAL CATEGORIES
CIVIL TRAFFIC INFRACTION HEARING OFFICERS
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
SPECIAL CATEGORIES
COMPENSATION TO RETIRED JUDGES
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
SPECIAL CATEGORIES
CONTRACTED SERVICES
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
FROM STATE COURTS REVENUE TRUST FUND
SPECIAL CATEGORIES
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OFFENDER MONITORING PROGRAM
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
SPECIAL CATEGORIES
RISK MANAGEMENT INSURANCE
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
SPECIAL CATEGORIES
STATEWIDE GRAND JURY - EXPENSES
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
SPECIAL CATEGORIES
LEASE OR LEASE-PURCHASE OF EQUIPMENT
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
SPECIAL CATEGORIES
MEDIATION/ARBITRATION SERVICES
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
SPECIAL CATEGORIES
STATE COURTS DUE PROCESS COSTS
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
FROM ADMINISTRATIVE TRUST FUND
SPECIAL CATEGORIES
TRANSFER TO DEPARTMENT OF MANAGEMENT SERVICES - HUMAN RESOURCES SERVICES PURCHASED PER STATEWIDE CONTRACT
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
FROM FEDERAL GRANTS TRUST FUND
DATA PROCESSING SERVICES
OTHER DATA PROCESSING SERVICES
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
FROM STATE COURTS REVENUE TRUST FUND
TOTAL
327,165,573
59,190,308

Updates

Community Court. The 17th Circuit recently started a new problem solving court, community court. The specialized docket that addresses the needs homeless offenders, the problem of petty crime and municipal ordinance offenders.  Community court aims to focuses on the underlying causes of offender's criminal behaviors and directs participants to community service. Participants must choose to take an active role in their rehabilitation, and agree to give back to the community in the form of community service, once their situation is stable. Community court uses a non-adversarial approach to handling eligible offenses; it relies on a team of justice system stakeholders, and various for-profit and not-for-profit service and treatment centers to provide participants with needed services.

Where can I find related OPPAGA reports?

County Pretrial Release Programs: Calendar Year 2018, Report 19-17, December 2019
Florida's Judicial Boundaries and Workload, Report 19-06, August 2019
County Pretrial Release Programs: Calendar Year 2017, Report 18-06, November 2018
County Pretrial Release Programs: Calendar Year 2016, Report 17-12, December 2017
County Pretrial Release Programs: Calendar Year 2015, Report 16-10, December 2016
County Pretrial Release Programs: Calendar Year 2014, Report 15-15, December 2015
A Review of Florida Circuit Courts, Report 15-13, December 2015
Review of Florida's Judicial Qualifications Commission, Report 15-12, December 2015

Where can I get more information?

Other Reports
Florida Courts Technology Commission Yearly Report, Appellate Court Technology Committee, April 2019.
Veterans Resource Guide for the Florida State Court System, Florida Supreme Court Task Force on Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues in the Courts, June 2014.
Florida Adult Felony Drug Courts Evaluation Report, NPC Research for the Florida Supreme Court Office of the State Courts Administrator, December 2013.
Publications, Office of the State Court Administrator.
Statistics, Office of the State Court Administrator.
The Auditor General reports on the state courts system are available on itswebsite.
Websites of Interest
Florida Rules of Court Procedure
National Center for State Courts
Court Statistic Project
Performance Information
Performance measures and standards for the department may be found in its Long Range Program Plan.

What are the applicable statutes?

Article V, Constitution of the State of Florida, and Ch. 26, Florida Statutes.

Whom do I contact for help?

Office of the State Courts Administrator, Supreme Court of Florida, 850-922-5081
Website