District Courts of Appeal
The purpose of Florida’s District Courts of Appeal is to provide the opportunity for thoughtful review of decisions of lower tribunals by multi-judge panels. District Courts of Appeal correct harmful errors and ensure that decisions are consistent with our rights and liberties. This process contributes to the development, clarity, and consistency of the law.
There are five District Courts of Appeal in Florida, located respectively in Tallahassee, Lakeland, Miami, West Palm Beach and Daytona Beach. As a general rule, decisions of the district courts of appeal represent the final appellate review of litigated cases.
- First District Court of Appeal - (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 8th and 14th Circuits)
- Second District Court of Appeal - (6th, 10th, 12th, 13th and 20th Circuits)
- Third District Court of Appeal - (11th and 16th Circuits)
- Fourth District Court of Appeal - (15th, 17th and 19th Circuits)
- Fifth District Court of Appeal - (5th, 7th, 9th and 18th Circuits)
The bulk of trial court decisions that are appealed are never heard by the Supreme Court. Rather, they are reviewed by three-judge panels of the district courts of appeal. Florida did not have district courts of appeal until 1957.
Until that time, all appeals were heard solely by the Supreme Court. As Florida grew rapidly in the twentieth century, however, the Supreme Court's docket became badly congested. Justice Elwyn Thomas with help from other members of the Court perceived the problem and successfully lobbied for the creation of the district-court system to provide intermediate appellate courts.
The Constitution now provides that the Legislature shall divide the State into appellate court districts and that there shall be a district court of appeal (DCA) serving each district. There are five such districts that are headquartered in Tallahassee, Lakeland, Miami, West Palm Beach, and Daytona Beach.
DCA judges must meet the same eligibility requirements for appointment to office, and they are subject to the same procedures and conditions for discipline and removal from office, as Justices of the Supreme Court. Like Supreme Court Justices, district court judges also serve terms of six years and will be eligible for successive terms under a merit retention vote of the electors in their districts.
In each district court, a chief judge, who is selected by the district court judges within the district, is responsible for the administrative duties of the court.
The fundamental reasons for appeals from trial courts are to correct harmful errors by having review by a multi-judge panel of experienced judges and to promote clarity and consistency in the law by publishing opinions that set forth the relevant facts of the case and the proper application of the law to those facts.
The district courts of appeal can hear appeals from final judgments and can review 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.
Finally, the district courts have been granted 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.
As a general rule, decisions of the district courts of appeal represent the final appellate review of litigated cases. A person who is displeased 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. Most are denied.
Judicial Family Institute (JFI)
The Judicial Family Institute is a subcommittee of the Conference of Chief Justices. It also works with the National Center for State Courts and is dedicated to providing information, support and education to judicial family members.