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

State Courts System

District Courts of Appeal

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 circuit 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, and may review an order or judgment of a county court that is certified by the county court to be of great public importance.

How many district courts of appeal are there?

There are five district courts of appeal, which are organized by geographical boundaries with courthouse headquarters located in Tallahassee, Lakeland, Miami, West Palm Beach, and Daytona Beach. These districts range from two to six judicial circuits.

How many judges are there?

The total number of district court of appeal judges is 64. The number of judges assigned to each court ranges from 10 to 16. In accordance to the Florida constitution, the Supreme Court has establish 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 three 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 Florida 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.  This vote is called a merit retention vote since appellate judges run on their records and are not opposed by any other candidate.

What is a chief judge?

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 2 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. Typically 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 may be taken as a matter of right from final judgments to orders of trial courts, that are not directly appealable to the Supreme Court or a circuit court.  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. The district courts of appeal have the power of the direct review of administrative action. 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 2018-19, there were 20,286 filings with the district courts of appeal and they disposed 20,554 cases.

How are these activities funded?

Fiscal Year: 2020-21
Fund Dollars Positions


District Court of Appeal judges may work from other locations. Florida law was amended in 2020 by Chapter 2020-61, Laws of Florida, which allows district court of appeal judges who live more than 50 miles from their DCA courthouse to have alternative headquarters. This allows the judges to be reimbursed for travel between their alternative headquarters and the DCA courthouse

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?

Other Reports
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 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. 35, Florida Statutes.

Whom do I contact for help?

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