Judge Timothy McCourt

Timothy McCourt

Circuit Judge

Judicial Assistant: Tara Motley
Office: 352-253-4402
Fax: 352-742-4240

I am the Circuit Judge assigned to the Guardianship, Injunction, Mental Health, and Domestic Relations dockets in Lake County. Below you will find information that will provide you with some general guidance and expectations if you are involved with cases that are on these dockets. If you have suggestions or comments about how the management of dockets can be improved, I welcome the opportunity to speak with you about your ideas.

Communication with the Court

For case-related questions, scheduling hearings, or general information, please send an e-mail to tmotley@circuit5.org. Your email should include the names of parties and case number. Proposed orders and hearing materials should be directed to the email addresses below.

All other parties to the case (or their attorneys, if they are represented) must be copied on all correspondence. These guidelines apply to all communications with the Court, including scheduling hearings and submitting proposed orders.

Scheduling and Cancelling Hearings

Prior to scheduling a motion for hearing, the motion sought to be heard must be filed.

Scheduling of a hearing shall be done by contacting the Judicial Assistant via e-mail at tmotley@circuit5.org. All other parties to the case (or their attorneys, if they are represented) shall be copied on the correspondence. Your e-mail should include the style of the case, the name(s) of the motion(s) you wish to have heard, and the amount of time you are requesting. In the event a telephone call is needed to coordinate the hearing, please provide a phone number at which you and the opposing party/attorney can be reached. A courtesy copy of the motion should be attached to the e-mail. This will allow the Court to review the motion in the event that it has not been processed through the e-portal.

In an effort to ensure that cases are resolved as promptly and efficiently as possible, and to minimize the time it takes parties to get hearing times, the Court will be available for short matters hearings via Zoom on most business days between 7:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., although the Court will not ordinarily set short matters hearings before 8:00 a.m. unless both parties agree to this. Matters that are appropriate for short matters hearings are things that can be accomplished in less than ten (10) minutes. Because these hearings will be conducted remotely, they ordinarily should not involve the introduction of evidence other than testimony. If you would like to request a short matters hearing, please note that in your email and every effort will be made to accommodate your request.

The Judicial Assistant will offer hearing dates and times to the parties. Should none of the provided date/times offered work, proof of conflict must be provided to the Court. If one party is pro se and the hearing can be scheduled with sufficient notice to the pro se party, the hearing will not need to be coordinated with the pro se party. The party requesting the hearing will be asked to prepare and file a notice of hearing.

Before cross-noticing an additional motion for a previously scheduled hearing, the attorneys and/or pro se party must contact the Judicial Assistant so the Court can determine if sufficient time is available to have the motion(s) heard together.

Noticed hearings may only be cancelled with the approval of the Court. If you wish to cancel a hearing that has been previously scheduled, you must contact the Judicial Assistant via e-mail at tmotley@circuit5.org and state the reason for the cancellation. If the Court approves the hearing being cancelled, you will be asked to prepare and file a notice of cancellation.

Domestic Relations Hearings and Trials

Short Matters

Information on setting short matter hearings is contained under the “Scheduling and Cancelling Hearings” tab.

Trials

When a domestic relations case is ready for trial, any party may file a notice that the action is at issue. A courtesy copy should be sent to the judicial assistant at tmotley@circuit5.org.

Upon the Court’s receipt of the notice, the Court will schedule the matter for a case management conference. At the case management conference, the Court will schedule the case for a pretrial conference and trial week. At the pretrial conference, a trial date will be selected. Trials may be set on any day during the corresponding trial week (except Tuesdays, which the Court reserves for injunction cases). Cases that require more than a day to try may be specially set by the Court outside of the regular trial weeks.

Pretrial conferences occur at 10 a.m., unless otherwise noted. The Court’s pretrial conference dates and corresponding trial terms for 2024 are as follows:

Pretrial Conference Trial Term (week of)
January 8 January 29 – February 2
February 5 February 12 – February 16
March 5 (1:30 p.m.) April 1 – April 5
April 8 April 29 – May 3
April 22 May 20 – May 24
May 6 June 10 – June 21 (2 week trial)
June 3 July 8 – July 12
July 15 August 19 – August 23
August 2 (8:30 a.m.) September 16 – September 20
September 9 October 14 – October 18
October 7 November 12 – November 15
November 4 December 2 – December 13 (2 week trial term)
December 16 January 2025 (date TBD)

Case Management Conferences

The Court may, from time to time, order case management conferences on its own initiative. The Court may also hold case management conferences at the request of a party. Any party desiring the Court to hold a case management conference should email the Judicial Assistant at tmotley@circuit5.org.

Continuances

A motion to continue must be predicated upon good cause and must comply with all laws and rules of procedure applicable to the action in which the motion is filed.

Parties should understand that the Court is bound by Fla. R. Gen. Prac. and Jud. Admin. 2.545(e), which provides: “All judges shall apply a firm continuance policy. Continuances should be few, good cause should be required, and all requests should be heard and resolved by a judge.”

Attorneys occasionally have scheduling conflicts that require them to appear at the same time before two different judges. If that occurs, and the attorney cannot arrange for other counsel to represent the client’s interests, the attorney has an obligation to comply with Fla. R. Gen. Prac. and Jud. Admin. 2.550(c). That rules requires the attorney to give prompt written notice of the conflict to opposing counsel, the clerk of each court, and the presiding judge of each case.

If you are seeking a continuance based upon a scheduling conflict, you must comply with this rule of procedure. This will enable Judge McCourt and the other judge to confer and undertake to avoid the conflict. Failure to comply with this rule may constitute grounds for denial of a motion for continuance.

In lieu of continuing a case, parties may request, and the Court may require, the use of communication technology, as provided in Fla. R. Gen. Prac. and Jud. Admin. 2.530.

If an order of continuance is granted, the party requesting the continuance will be asked to prepare an order granting continuance and submit it to the Court.

Proposed Orders

All proposed orders shall be submitted in Microsoft Word format (.docx) via email JudgeMcCourtProposedOrders@circuit5.org. Please do not send paper orders, as we endeavor to be a paperless office. Proposed orders should be accompanied by a cover letter that indicates whether the order is agreed-upon by all parties and a courtesy copy of the motion to which the order relates. This will allow for more expeditious consideration of the matter. Please do not send paper orders, as we endeavor to be a paperless office.

Proposed orders may be submitted in advance of scheduled hearings.

All proposed orders shall include a certificate of service in compliance with Florida Rule of General Practice and Procedure 2.516.  The certificate of service shall contain language substantially similar to the following:

“I HEREBY CERTIFY that a true and correct copy of the foregoing has been provided through electronic service and/or regular U.S. mail to the following parties.” The parties shall then be listed.

Failure to provide the required certificate of service may result in the Court’s rejection of the proposed order and request for a new order.

Please double-check your orders to ensure the caption includes the correct circuit (Fifth Judicial Circuit) and county (Lake County).

In cases involving a self-represented litigant who is not participating in electronic service through the e-filing portal, the proposed order must include language that the prevailing party will serve the order through regular U.S. mail on the self-represented party and certify said service through a filed notice of service within five (5) days of the entry of the order.  This provision is an effort to eliminate the costs of providing copies and self-addressed stamped envelopes to the Court with proposed orders.  Failure to include this language may result in the Court’s rejection of the proposed order and request for a new order.

A suggested form for proposed orders for use in Domestic Relations cases may be found here.

A suggested form for proposed orders for use in Guardianship cases may be found here.

Zoom and Telephonic Appearances

All evidentiary hearings and trials are held in-person at the Lake County Judicial Center, located at 550 W. Main Street, Tavares, Florida 32778, unless ordered otherwise. Hearings will be held in Courtroom 1C if it is available. If Courtroom 1C is not available, hearings will be held in the Judge’s chambers (Suite 3, North Wing) or another location in the Lake County Judicial Center.

Requests to appear at an evidentiary hearing via audio/video communication platform(s), such as telephone or Zoom, must generally be made by the filing of a motion and will only be allowed by court order.

All virtual hearings held through Zoom utilize Meeting ID 670 014 01533. The Court will not send out individual meeting invites.  All participants to a virtual hearing must join with a functional camera, speaker, and microphone.  The camera must remain active for the entire hearing.  If a participant is unable to have an active camera, the hearing should be held in-person or telephonically to avoid concerns about unobservable communication or behavior amongst other participants.  Virtual hearings are only recorded when required by Florida law, and no party shall record the proceedings except the Court.

Attorneys appearing on behalf of a client at a virtual hearing are expected to dress and conduct themselves in the same manner as if in a traditional courtroom.  The environment from which a participant joins must be free from noises, distractions, or environmental interference.

Participants shall identify any other individuals present with them to the Court and opposing counsel.  The parties must comply with Fifth Judicial Circuit Administrative Order A-2021-58. Where not inconsistent, the parties should also follow The Florida Bar Recommended Best Practice for Remote Court Proceedings. Failure to comply with these provisions may result in the Court’s rescheduling of the hearing to be held in-person.

Conduct of Hearings

Proceedings are governed by the Florida Rules of Court Procedure applicable to the action.

Pro se litigants who are representing themselves should understand that they are bound by the same rules that apply to attorneys. Steuber v. Gallagher, 812 So. 2d 454 (Fla. 5th DCA 2002). Courts have held that “it is a mistake to hold a pro se litigant to a lesser standard than a reasonably competent attorney.” Kohn v. City of Miami Beach, 611 So. 2d 538 (Fla. 3d DCA 1992).

Except for injunction hearings, if a party/counsel intends to introduce any document or other item capable of being photocopied or scanned into evidence during a hearing, hard copies of the proposed evidence shall be delivered to the Judicial Assistant at least 48 hours in advance of the hearing. Other items of tangible evidence that are not capable of being photocopied or scanned may be brought to the hearing.

If a hearing is being conducted via Zoom and the intended evidence exceeds 10 pages, hard copies of the evidence must be submitted to the Court 48 hours in advance of the hearing. If the evidence is under 10 pages, the evidence may be submitting in PDF format to the Judicial Assistant at tmotley@circuit5.org at least 48 hours in advance of the hearing.

Evidence should only be delivered to the Court for virtual hearings.

The Court will not print evidence for virtual hearings. The Court will not review submitted evidence prior to the trial and will not review the evidence unless properly admitted. See Wilson v. Armstrong, 686 So. 2d 647, 648 (Fla. 1st DCA 1996) (“Canon 3 excludes all ex parte communications with all judges in all judicial proceedings, except when expressly authorized by law” (citing Inquiry Concerning Miller, 655 So. 2d 75, 78 (Fla. 1994); Inquiry Concerning Clayton, 504 So. 2d 394, 395 (Fla. 1987))).”

Case Law, Memoranda, and Hearing Materials Other Than Evidence

Any party desiring to submit case law, a memorandum of law, or hearing materials other than evidence for an upcoming hearing may submit these materials electronically to JudgeMcCourtHearingMaterials@circuit5.org.  The Court desires that these materials be submitted at least ten days prior to the scheduled hearing.

Parties submitting binders, case law, and/or memoranda physically should make sure that the material is sent at least one week in advance of the hearing.

About Judge McCourt

Judge McCourt was appointed to the Circuit Court by Governor Ron DeSantis on December 18, 2023. He assumed office on January 3, 2024.

Prior to Judge McCourt’s appointment to the Circuit Court, he was employed for five years by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, where he served as General Counsel and as a Deputy Sheriff. Before that, he worked as an Assistant State Attorney in the Fifth Judicial Circuit for 10 years, where he was assigned to Marion, Citrus, and Sumter Counties. His assignments with the State Attorney’s Office included the supervision of a felony division where he was responsible for cases involving homicide, death to persons, 10/20/Life penalties, drug trafficking, career criminals, and other complex matters. Judge McCourt also spent two years in private practice at a small law firm in Tavares (Lake County) where his private practice consisted primarily of family law and civil litigation but also included criminal defense and appeals.

Judge McCourt received his law degree, with honors, in 2007, from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. He received undergraduate degrees in Political Science and Sociology, with honors, in 2003, from the Florida State University. Judge McCourt graduated from the College of Central Florida Law Enforcement Academy (Class #193) where he received the K.C. Alvarez Award for highest academic achievement.

Judge McCourt has been an active member of the legal community in the Fifth Judicial Circuit. He currently serves on the Fifth Judicial Circuit’s Local Professionalism Panel and is a member of the Lake County Bar Association and Marion County Bar Association. Judge McCourt is also a member of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies.

Judge McCourt is a past-President of the Marion County Bar Association and the D.R. Smith American Inn of Court. He previously served as Chair of the Florida Bar’s Grievance Committee for the Fifth Judicial Circuit, as a member of the Florida Bar’s Unlicensed Practice of Law Committee for the Fifth Judicial Circuit, and as a lawyer member of the Bench-Bar Committee of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Until his appointment to the judiciary, he served on the Board of Directors of Heart of Florida Health Center, Inc., a non-profit health center with locations in Marion and Sumter Counties.  From 2015 to 2021, he was the Volunteer Judge for Marion County’s Juvenile Drug Court Program and from 2008 to 2020, he volunteered with the Fifth Judicial Circuit’s Teen Court programs in Lake, Marion, and Sumter Counties.

In 2018, Judge McCourt was awarded the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Doris and Murray Felton Excellence in Law Enforcement Award for his work prosecuting radicalized individuals who sympathized with terrorist organizations and had taken steps towards carrying out acts of violence against Ocala residents, the local Jewish community, and the State of Israel.

*NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC:* 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.