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2020 Brings Changes in Florida’s County Courts

Judge

Going to court isn’t really fun for anyone, not even those of us that are paid to be there! Seas of red tape among hard wooden chairs, old carpets and drab walls are never where anyone wants to spend their mornings. But with the coming of the new year, there’s actually some good news. Changes in Florida state law and the Florida Rules of Procedure went into effect on January 1, 2020 and with it came some positive moves.

It is important to first understand that the state of Florida has two trial court levels: Circuit Court and County Court. In the state of Florida, there are 20 circuit courts, and sixty-seven county courts. Most commonly, the factor that determines whether a lawsuit is brought in Circuit Court or County Court is the amount in controversy, otherwise known as the amount of damages the plaintiff is seeking.

This past May of 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law changes to the state of Florida’s Circuit Court jurisdictional minimum from $15,000 to $30,000. The change in jurisdictional minimums should result in more cases being filed in County Court rather than Circuit Court, with the hope that a greater division between the two leads to a faster resolution of cases. The change in jurisdictional thresholds should in turn help reduce the burden of caseloads in the circuit court. By doing so, the hope is that cases will move faster as the judges’ dockets open up with a lighter caseload and more cases are shifted from circuit court to county court. Here’s to hoping!

Below, as of January 1, 2020, is the full list of changes in Florida state law and the Florida Rules of Procedure going into effect:

  • County court jurisdictional thresholds increase to $30,000 on January 1, 2020, and to $50,000 on January 1, 2023.
  • Small claims cases on January 1, 2020, will include cases up to $8,000
  • Filers will be required to include a civil cover sheet specifying the dollar amount in dispute in cases exceeding $8,000 in value.
  • The new law maintains current rules that limits the provision of subsidized court mediation services to county court cases with an amount in controversy up to $15,000.
  • State law provides that on January 1, 2020, appeals of county court orders or judgments with an amount in controversy greater than $15,000 will be heard by the district courts of appeal until January 1, 2023, when the provision repeals.
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