Judges & Judicial Officers
Office of the Chief Judge
Each of Florida’s 20 judicial circuits are administered by a Chief Judge who is elected by a majority of the judges in the circuit for a term of two years. The Chief Judge acts as liaison with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in all judicial administrative matters and is responsible for the efficient and proper administration of the circuit and county courts. As set forth in Rule 2.050, Rules of Judicial Administration, this includes developing a plan for the prompt disposition of cases; assignment of judges, other court officers and executive assistants; control of dockets; regulation and use of courtrooms; mandatory periodic review of the status of the inmates of the county jail; and, consideration of statistical data. The Chief Judge also enters administrative orders to properly direct the court’s day-to-day affairs and appoints committees to serve in an advisory capacity.
The Chief Judge is assisted in judicial administration by administrative judges assigned to the nine divisions of the circuit and county courts. Within their respective divisions, they have authority over assignment or transfer of cases, assignment of judges, the physical location of judges within a courthouse, back-ups for judges, and intra-division court policy.
Circuit and County Court Judges
Florida currently operates under a two-tier trial court system of circuit and county courts, established in 1972 with the adoption of Article V to the Florida Constitution, which defines the jurisdiction and organization of the Florida State Court System. In the circuit and county trial courts, factual disputes are resolved, either by jury trials where verdicts are rendered by the people, or by non-jury or “bench” trials where a judge decides the issues in the case. In general, County Courts, sometimes called “the people’s courts”, are courts of limited jurisdiction where minor criminal (misdemeanor) and civil cases are heard. In the Circuit Courts, which are the highest state trial courts in Florida, major criminal (felony), civil, family, juvenile and probate matters are heard.
After retirement, judges may seek approval from the Supreme Court of Florida to serve as senior judges on temporary assignment to hear, conduct and try cases for the court. Senior judges of the Fifth Judicial Circuit assist the judiciary by presiding over a variety of cases heard in the circuit and county courts.
General magistrates are widely utilized in Florida’s trial courts to assist the judiciary in the effective and timely disposition of cases. They are appointed by the chief judge to hear cases and make findings of fact and recommendations in a General Magistrate’s Report to judges in the Family, Circuit Civil, Juvenile and Probate Divisions. Once the general magistrate has filed a report with the sitting judge, either party in the case may appeal by making exceptions to the general magistrate’s findings and recommendations. If there are no exceptions to the report, the judge generally enters an order approving the decision of the general magistrate.
Child Support Hearing Officers are appointed by the Chief Judge in each circuit to expeditiously handle child support issues, including establishment, modification and enforcement of child support. When a child support matter is filed, the Clerk of Court refers the matter to the Hearing Officer. The Hearing Officer sets a hearing, takes testimony, makes a record, and submits a recommended order to the Court. Any party affected by the order may file a Motion to Vacate within 10 days, and may move to modify at any time.
Talking to Judges and Judicial Officers
The Code of Judicial Conduct governing behavior by judges forbids the Judges of the Fifth Judicial Circuit to discuss pending cases with the public. Please do not call the Court expecting to speak with a Judge about any case. The Court is only allowed to consider arguments made in the courtroom and in documents properly filed by actual parties in the case as authorized by law and the Rules of Court. The Court cannot ethically read or consider any other opinions or arguments about the case. Communications that do not meet these legal requirements cannot be forwarded to the Judges.
For more information about the Judicial Hearing Officers or to download forms, please click here.