Before 1973 Florida’s trial system was expansive and confusing. The state simplified their trial courts into two main entities, Circuit Courts and County Courts. Florida’s Circuit Courts are the general jurisdiction courts for the state, and most civil and criminal cases take place there.
Florida is split into 20 judicial circuits, and each one has a single Circuit Court. The number of judges in each circuit depends on caseload and population of the area.
The Florida Circuit Courts have general jurisdiction over all matters that are not served by the County Courts. They can also handle appeals from County Courts. These courts are considered the highest trial courts in Florida and the lowest appellate courts.
The types of cases resolved in Circuit Courts are civil issues of more than $15,000, cases that involve minors, juvenile delinquency cases, estate cases, mental health issues and guardianship, criminal prosecution for all felonies, tax matters and issues related to the title and ownership of real property.
Circuit Courts also have the authority to issue “writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, and habeas corpus, and all other writs necessary to the complete exercise of their jurisdiction.”
Circuit Court judges are elected into office for a six-year term by the voters in their district. To be eligible to sit on the bench of the Circuit Court, someone must reside in the district they are running in and have practiced law for five years prior.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court chooses a Chief Judge from all the Circuit Court and County Court judges, one per county. This judge carries out administrative duties for all the trial courts.
For the past year calculated, Florida saw 752,012 new filings in Circuit Court. Of that total, 171,340 were criminal offenses, 171,515 were civil issues, 286,659 were for family court matters, and the remaining 122,498 were for probate cases.