Florida District Courts of Appeal
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- The First District Court of Appeal is headquartered in Tallahassee
- The Second District Court of Appeal is headquartered in Lakeland and has a branch in Tampa
- The Third District Court of Appeal is headquartered in Miami
- The Fourth District Court of Appeal is headquartered in West Palm Beach
- The Fifth District Court of Appeal is headquartered in Daytona Beach
The District Courts of Appeal were created by the Florida Legislature in 1957 to provide an intermediate level of appellate review between the trial courts (the county courts and circuit courts) and the Florida Supreme Court. This was done, as in other parts of the United States, to relieve the state supreme court's ever-increasing appellate docket; the lobbying effort by Florida Supreme Court Justice Elwyn Thomas played a large role in the DCAs' creation.
Three DCAs were initially created, with the Third District Court of Appeal was given jurisdiction over cases arising from Dade and Monroe counties. Later, the Fourth and Fifth District Courts of Appeal were created.
The existence of the DCAs was provided for in the Florida Constitution, which now requires the Legislature to divide the State into appellate court districts, providing each with a DCA.
At the time, Florida was the second state to have "District Courts of Appeal," as California had created its own District Courts of Appeal in 1904. However, in 1966, California dropped the word "District" from the names of the California Courts of Appeal, thus leaving Florida as the sole state with DCAs.
District Court of Appeal judges, like Florida Supreme Court justices, are first recommended by the Florida Judicial Nominating Commission. They are then appointed by the governor of Florida, but have retention elections every six years, in which voters are asked on the ballot to vote whether the judge should be retained in office. (Retention rates are very high).
DCAs have different numbers of judges - currently ranging from 11 to 15 - based on the docket size.
The Court's Jurisdiction is set forth in Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.030.
Appeals are usually heard by a three-judge panel. Occasionally a DCA will hold an en banc hearing, in which all the judges participate.
Case law and decisions from a District Court of Appeal are persuasive and often cited by other District Courts of Appeal, but are not binding precedent on those courts. However, the decisions and case law precedent of each District Court of Appeal are binding upon all of the circuit and county courts within the State of Florida. See Pardo v. State, 596 So. 2d 665 (Fla. 1992). In the event of a conflict between the decisions of different District Courts of Appeal, county and circuit courts must adhere to the case law of their own District Court.
District Courts of Appeal may recede from certain case law and precedent in subsequent decisions, or the Supreme Court may override a district court's precedent in favor of conflicting case law from another district. Because the Florida Supreme Court has predominantly discretionary jurisdiction (i.e., can choose which cases it wants to hear), the DCAs provide the final word on the vast majority of cases appealed in the State of Florida. Cases that are affirmed without comment by the district courts cannot be appealed to the Supreme Court, even as a request for discretionary review. Such a case may be reviewed by the United States Supreme Court pursuant to a petition for writ of certiorari.
Cases involving the death penalty are heard directly and automatically by the Florida Supreme Court, bypassing the District Courts of Appeal.
- Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.030.
- See, e.g., Ibanez v. Florida Department of Professional Regulation, 512 U.S. 136 (1994), in which review had been denied without comment by the Florida First District Court of Appeal. 621 So. 2d 435 (Fla. 1st DCA 1993).
- Website of the Florida District Courts of Appeal
- Florida First District Court of Appeal Website
- Florida Second District Court of Appeal Website
- Florida Third District Court of Appeal Website
- Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal Website
- Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal Website
- Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure