Supreme Court (Court of Last Resort)
The Supreme Court of Florida is also known as the court of last resort. As the decision of this court is final and binding upon the parties.
- The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is set out in the Constitution.
- The Court has mandatory review jurisdiction in final orders of
- imposing death sentences,
- district court decisions declaring a State statute or provision of the State Constitution invalid,
- bond validations, and
- certain orders of the Public Service Commission on utility rates and services.
- This review jurisdiction can also be exercised as discretion of the Supreme Court in a matter where a party seeks the review. The Court at its discretion may also review
- any decision of a district court of appeal that expressly declares valid a state statute,
- construes a provision of the state or federal constitution,
- affects a class of constitutional or state officers, or
- directly conflicts with a decision of another district court or of the Supreme Court on the same question of law.
The Supreme Court also reviews certain categories of judgments, decisions, and questions of law certified to it by the district courts of appeal and federal appellate courts.
The Supreme Court has the writ Jurisdiction exercising its constitutional authority to issue the extraordinary writs of
- quo warranto, and
- habeas corpus and
all other writs necessary to the complete exercise of its jurisdiction, e.g. an order to stay lower court proceedings.
These writs are issued without the necessity of having to proceed initially to trial.
Writ of Habeas Corpus
- This writ may be invoked by any person who seeks release from custody or confinement which is asserted to be unlawful.
- Writ Of Prohibition,
- Through this writ a court may prevent a lower tribunal from acting upon matters that are not within its jurisdiction or from exceeding its lawful powers.
- Writ Of Mandamus
- Issuance of this writ means a court compel an official to perform a duty the law requires but that the official has failed or refused to perform.
- Writ Of Quo Warranto,
This writ is available to challenge the right of public officials to hold the offices to which they claim entitlement.
- Imposing a death penalty the court follows a procedure dictated by the United States Supreme Court.
- Under this procedure, the Court must look into two factors
- "aggravating" and
- "mitigating" factors.
- Aggravating factors include to determine the fact that a murder was "execution-style" or was very torturous.
- Mitigating factors may include mental illness, contributions to the community during life, or the fact the murderer was very young.
- The death sentence can never be imposed if there are no aggravating factors.
All matters may not come in appeal except the matter, which involves the followings
- Express validity of statutes
- Construction of Florida or US constitutions
- Decisions affecting a class of constitutional/statutory officers
- Certified questions
DISTRICT COURTS OF APPEAL (INTERMEDIATE COURTS OF APPEAL)
- The District Courts of Appeal hears appeals from final judgments and reviews certain non-final orders.
- By general law, the district courts have been granted the power to review final actions taken by state agencies in carrying out the duties of the executive branch of government.
- The district courts have constitutional authority to issue the extraordinary writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, and habeas corpus, as well as all other writs necessary to the complete exercise of their jurisdiction.
- A person aggrieved with a district court's express decision may ask for review in the Florida Supreme Court and then in the United States Supreme Court, but neither tribunal is required to accept the case for further review.
CIRCUIT COURTS (COURTS OF GENERAL JURISDICTION OR THE COURTS OF APPEAL)
The circuit courts are the highest trial courts and the lowest appellate courts in Florida's judicial system.
- Circuit courts have general trial jurisdiction over matters not assigned by statute to the county courts and also hear appeals from county court cases.
- The trial jurisdiction of circuit courts includes, among other matters,
- original jurisdiction over civil disputes involving more than $15,000;
- controversies involving the estates of decedents, minors, and persons adjudicated as incapacitated;
- cases relating to juveniles;
- criminal prosecutions for all felonies;
- tax disputes;
- actions to determine the title and boundaries of real property;
- suits for declaratory judgments that is, to determine the legal rights or responsibilities of parties under the terms of written instruments, laws, or regulations before a dispute arises and leads to litigation; and
- requests for injunctions to prevent persons or entities from acting in a manner that is asserted to be unlawful.
The Circuit Courts are also granted the power to issue the extraordinary writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, and habeas corpus, and all other writs necessary to the complete exercise of their jurisdiction.
COUNTY COURTS (COURTS OF LIMITED JURISDICTION)
- The trial jurisdiction of county courts is established by statute.
- The jurisdiction of county courts extends to civil disputes involving $15,000 or less.
- The majority of non-jury trials in Florida take place before one judge sitting as a judge of the county court.
- The county courts are sometimes referred to as "the people's courts," probably because a large part of the courts' work involves voluminous citizen disputes, such as
- Traffic offenses,
- Less serious criminal matters (misdemeanors),
- Small Claims (under $500)
- Civil (under $15,000)