What is the purpose of the courts?
The District Courts of Appeal (DCAs) hear appeals of final judgments or orders of trial courts that are not directly appealable to the Supreme Court or a trial court. The DCAs also hear administrative law appeals of state agency by the executive branch. Additionally,
DCAs must review county court decisions invalidating a provision of Florida’s constitution or statutes, may review decisions of a county court that are certified by the county court to be of great public importance, and, effective January 1, 2020, must review appeals of county court decisions when the amount in controversy exceeds $15,000.
How many district courts of appeal are there?
In 2022, the Legislature increased the number of District Courts of Appeal from five to six, effective January 1, 2023. The Legislature also changed the geographical boundaries of several districts, which range from two to five judicial circuits. The six courthouse headquarters are located in Leon County, Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County, Pinellas County, Polk County, and Volusia County.
How many judges are there?
The total number of District Courts of Appeal judges is 71. The number of judges assigned to each court ranges from 10 to 15. In accordance to the Florida Constitution, the Supreme Court has established uniform criteria for determining the appropriate number of district judges and may certify to the Legislature the need to increase or decrease judgeships. The Legislature has the power to create or decrease the number of district judgeships.
How are judges appointed?
The governor fills a judicial vacancy on a district court by appointment from a list of qualified persons recommended by the Judicial Nominating Commission. There is a nominating commission for each appellate court district. To be eligible for appointment, a person must be a registered voter who resides in the jurisdiction of the court and has been admitted to the practice of law in Florida for the preceding 10 years. An appellate judge serves for six years and must be retained by vote of the registered voters in the district to serve another six-year term.
Appellate judges in each district elect a chief judge who handles administrative responsibilities for the district court, including assigning cases to judges. Chief judges are chosen by a majority of the active judges of the district for a two-year term. A chief judge may serve for successive terms, but no more than 8 years.
What types of cases do the courts hear?
District Courts of Appeal hear most of the appeals of circuit and county court decisions and appeals of state agency actions.
A panel of three judges considers each case and two judges must concur to render a decision. The District Courts of Appeal have jurisdiction to hear appeals that maybe taken as a matter of right from final judgments or orders of trial courts, not directly appealable to the Supreme Court or a circuit court. This can include murder cases in which a sentence less than death is imposed, because the Supreme Court only has exclusive jurisdiction over cases involving an actual death sentence. The District Courts of Appeal have the power of the direct review of administrative action. The District Courts of Appeal may issue writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, certiorari, prohibition, quo warranto, and other writs necessary to the complete exercise of its jurisdiction. As a practical matter, the vast majority of appeals in the state are heard by the district courts, not the Supreme Court. The First District Court of Appeal has jurisdiction over all workers' compensation cases and most appeals of state agency actions.
How many cases do the courts hear?
In Fiscal Year 2020-21, there were 16,115 filings with the District Courts of Appeal and they disposed 17,663 cases.
How are these activities funded?
Appellate Case Dashboard. This new online dashboard provides District Courts of Appeal caseload information available to the public. Users can access information about caseloads, filings, and dispositions in a user-friendly format that shows district court performance across all districts.
Where can I find related OPPAGA reports?
Florida's Judicial Boundaries and Workload, Report 19-06, August 2019
A Review of the Florida District Courts of Appeal Boundaries and Workload, Report 17-05, February 2017
Where can I get more information?
The Florida State Courts Annual Reports, Office of the State Courts Administrator.
Short History of Florida State Courts System Processes, Programs, and Initiatives, Office of the State Courts Administrator, 2016.
Florida Courts Technology Commission Yearly Report, Appellate Court Technology Committee, April 2019.
Second District Court of Appeal Space and Location Needs Study, National Center for State Courts and Savills Studley, December 2016.
Review of the Weighted Case Disposition Threshold for District Court of Appeal Judges, Commission on District Court of Appeal Performance & Accountability, June, 2015.
The Auditor General reports on the state courts system are available on its website.
Websites of Interest
Florida District Courts of Appeal Online Docket
Florida Rules of Court Procedure
National Center for State Courts
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. 35, Florida Statutes.
Whom do I contact for help?
Office of the State Courts Administrator, Supreme Court of Florida, 850-922-5081