Responding to recommendations from the Judicial Management Council’s Work Group on County Court jurisdiction, lawmakers in Florida earlier this year agreed to raise county court civil jurisdiction for the first time since 1992.
Florida’s trial court system is divided into two tiers, the county courts and the circuit courts. For most civil cases, the current dividing line of jurisdiction between county and circuit court is the amount in controversy, with a $15,000 limit dividing the two.
Effective January 1, 2020, changes in Florida state law and the Florida Rules of Procedure will go into effect, changing where a variety of court actions are heard. The Florida Supreme Court also approved new rules of civil procedure that, in addition to technical changes, raises the jurisdiction of small claims actions by 60 percent.
Additional changes include:
- County court jurisdictional thresholds will increase to $30,000 on January 1, 2020, and to $50,000 on January 1, 2023;
- Small claims actions filed on or after January 1, 2020, will include cases up to $8,000 in controversy;
- Filers will be required to include a civil cover sheet specifying the dollar amount in dispute in cases exceeding $8,000. The cover sheets will allow court administrators to track changes and report the impact to state lawmakers by February 1, 2021;
- 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 effective 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.
“Because of their work involving voluminous citizen disputes, county court is typically referred to as ‘the people’s court,’” Fort Lauderdale attorney Steven Swickle told South Florida Reporter. “With a 60 percent jurisdictional increase in small claims actions on the horizon, more Floridians will have access to the judiciary.”