County court jurisdictional changes take effect January 1
On January 1, Florida’s county courts will see their civil jurisdiction jump from $15,000 to $30,000, and court administrators and court clerks are determined to spread the word.
Responding to recommendations from the Judicial Management Council’s Work Group on County Court Jurisdiction, lawmakers earlier this year agreed to raise county court civil jurisdiction for the first time since 1992.
On November 14, the Florida Supreme Court approved new rules of civil procedure that, in addition to technical changes, raise the jurisdiction of small claims court from $5,000 to $8,000, also on January 1.
The Office of State Courts Administrator announced on November 19 that it is distributing a County Court Jurisdiction Communications Plan to all circuit administrators. The plan includes information to be posted on court websites and social media accounts, said OSCA spokesperson Paul Flemming.
OSCA has also launched its own Know Your Court website at www.flcourts.gov/Know-Your-Court and has released an animated county court jurisdiction information video.
The Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers is launching a similar public awareness campaign.
One of the most significant changes will require those filing civil actions in county courts to file a cover sheet listing the amount in controversy. The cover sheets will allow court administrators to track the changes and report the impact to lawmakers by February 1, 2021.
The same legislation raises the civil jurisdiction for county courts from $30,000 to $50,000 in 2023.
Sarasota County Court Judge David Denkin, immediate past president of the Conference of County Court Judges of Florida, welcomed the increase, but said it would be difficult to predict the impact because there is currently no mechanism for tracking cases by amounts in controversy.
A Work Group study predicted the increase in cases will be manageable, but some counties may have to juggle courtroom space to handle a potential increase in jury trials.
The new legislation also directs civil appeals from county courts with amounts between $15,000 to $30,000 to district courts of appeal, bypassing circuit courts.
The rule changes were proposed by the Appellate Court Rules Committee, the Civil Procedure Rules Committee, and the Small Claims Rules Committee.
Justices approved most of the proposed changes, modified some, and rejected, without comment, proposed amendments to Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.030(b)(1) (Jurisdiction of District Courts of Appeal; Appeal Jurisdiction).
See In Re: Amendments to the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, Florida Small Claims Rules, and Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure — Jurisdiction, Case No. SC19-1354.