Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability
Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability

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.

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 606 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 non-partisan, contested elections by voters in the circuit in which they are seeking to take office. If a vacancy occurs, the governor shall appoint a circuit judge from persons nominated by the appropriate judicial nominating commission. An election shall be held to fill the circuit judgeship for the term of office at the end of the appointed judge's term.

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 courtsThe jurisdiction of circuit courts includes, in part, civil disputes involving more than $30,000; controversies involving the estates of decedents, minors, and persons adjudicated as incapacitated; cases relating to juveniles; criminal prosecutions for all felonies; tax disputes; actions to determine the title and boundaries of real property; suits for declaratory judgments that is, to determine the legal rights or responsibilities of parties under the terms of written instruments, laws, or regulations before a dispute arises and leads to litigation; and requests for injunctions to prevent persons or entities from acting in a manner that is asserted to be unlawful.

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. Drug court defendants participate in required clinical treatment programs, individualized case management, frequent and random drug tests, and must make regular court appearances. Violation of program rules are met with graduated sanctions, whereas incentives are offered for successful progression and completion. As of September 2020, Florida has 95 drug courts in operation, including 56 adult, 20 juvenile,13 dependency, 4 DUI, 1 Marchman Act, and 1 domestic violence court.
    • Early Childhood Courts. As of July 2020, there are 27 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 of the child 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 illness away traditional criminal justice sanctions, such as incarceration, and 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 September 2020, Florida has 31 mental health courts.
    • Veterans Courts. These problem solving 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 a problem-solving court model, where an interdisciplinary team, including court personnel, volunteers, and veterans' agencies and services providers, works with the defendant to address underlying factors, which contribute to criminal behaviors. As of September 2020, Florida has 31 veterans courts in operation.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution/Mediation. Mediation and dispute resolution programs enable litigants to resolve their disputes without judicial intervention. 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 and family law forms for use in dissolution, paternity, child support, name change, and visitation cases. Self-Help Centers direct interested individuals to the self-help website where they can explore resources needed to represent themselves, access the courts, and other essential resources. Self-help staff cannot provide legal interpretations or advice.

How many cases do the courts hear?

In Fiscal Year 2019-20, there were 713,004 cases filed and 672,406 cases disposed in circuit courts. Additional statistics are available in the Trial Court Statistical Reference Guide.

How are these activities funded?

Fiscal Year: 2021-22
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
FROM GRANTS AND DONATIONS TRUST FUND
EXPENSES
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
FROM ADMINISTRATIVE TRUST FUND
FROM FEDERAL GRANTS TRUST FUND
OPERATING CAPITAL OUTLAY
FROM GENERAL REVENUE 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
FROM STATE COURTS REVENUE TRUST 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
FROM STATE COURTS REVENUE TRUST 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 STATE COURTS REVENUE TRUST FUND
FROM FEDERAL GRANTS TRUST FUND
FROM GRANTS AND DONATIONS TRUST FUND
DATA PROCESSING SERVICES
OTHER DATA PROCESSING SERVICES
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
TOTAL
360,421,433
70,507,225

Updates

Virtual Courtroom Directory. Beginning in April, 2021, this website allows viewers to link to and watch virtual hearings and court livestreams of trials and oral arguments throughout the state. Proceedings from the Supreme Court, the five district courts of appeal, and eight circuits are actively streaming on a regular basis (the Second, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Eleventh, Fourteenth, Seventeenth, and Twentieth; the most active counties are Leon, Bay, Gulf, Washington, Glades, Collier, Alachua, Miami-Dade, Orange, Osceola, St. Johns, Broward, Flagler, Putnam, Volusia, and Flagler). Proceeding types vary by court, but they include first appearances, arraignments, criminal pre-trial hearings, violation of probation hearings, criminal and civil trials, and oral arguments. Viewers can search for a proceeding by location (county) or by judge.

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

Where can I get more information?

Other Reports
Florida Courts Technology Commission Yearly Report, Florida Court Technology Committee, April 2021.
Voices in the Civil Justice System: Learning from Self-Represented Litigants and Their Trusted Intermediaries, Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice, March 2020.
Florida Problem-Solving Courts Report, Office of the State Court Administrator, January, 2021.
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 its website.
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

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