What documents are required for a hearing?
Notice of Hearing
Supporting document copies
Legal Authority (e.g. case law supporting your position)
How do I find out which judge is assigned my case?
Contact the clerk's office in DeSoto County (863) 993-4876, in Manatee County (941) 749-1800 or in Sarasota County (941) 861-7400.
Why is the judge I started with no longer on the case?
All judges rotate divisions every one to two years or so and do not normally keep cases from one division when they move to another. On occasion a judge may be required to swap cases with another judge because of ethical considerations, or because other judges may need backup or assistance.
How can I continue a court hearing?
If you have an attorney, he or she must file a motion asking the judge for a continuance. Persons without an attorney may write the judge a letter in advance requesting a change and giving the reasons. Requests may be faxed only when short notice, urgent or emergency situations exist. A copy of the request must be sent in writing to the opposing party. [In a criminal case, the opposing party is the local Office of the State Attorney.] Failure to show copies sent to the opposing party is grounds for denying the request on its face. There must be good cause, such as a verifiable emergency, for a continuance to be granted. Some judges may rule on a motion for continuance based solely on what the judge sees in the motion. Other judges may require the moving party to schedule, through the judge’s office, a hearing on the continuance request. If a hearing is granted, you should appear in person at the hearing when scheduled. If the motion to continue is denied and you fail to appear, there may be serious legal consequences. What you think is a good excuse may not be a legal one in the judge's opinion, and it is the judge's opinion that is determinative. ALWAYS INCLUDE THE CASE NUMBER ON WRITTEN COMMUNICATIONS TO A JUDGE WITH A RETURN ADDRESS & PHONE NUMBER. Case numbers are available from the clerk of court.
Can I appear telephonically for a hearing?
PRIOR TO ATTEMPTING TO SCHEDULE A TELEPHONIC HEARING ATTORNEYS ARE ENCOURAGED TO CONFIRM THE JUDGE’S POLICY BY CONTACTING THE RESPECTIVE JUDICIAL ASSISTANT.
As a general rule, attorneys may be permitted to appear by telephone if the hearings are 15 minutes or less and are non-evidentiary in nature. The Notice of Hearing must reflect that this is a telephonic hearing, indicate which attorney(s) will be appearing by telephone, and the phone number to be called collect. The court will make one attempt to call. If the call is rejected for any reason, or the recipient is not immediately available, the hearing may be cancelled or may proceed without the absent party’s participation.
What telephone number do I call into for my hearing?
All telephonic hearings are initiated from the Courtroom. A collect call is placed to one number, or a call is placed to one toll free number.
How do I get an Emergency Hearing?
Litigants requesting an emergency hearing are required first to call the judge’s office to alert the Judicial Assistant that an emergency motion is being filed and to confirm the FAX number. Then the attorney is required to FAX a copy of the motion or pleading to the judge. The request will not be considered until a written motion or pleading is received. Time permitting, the original pleading should be filed with the clerk who will assign a case number, if it is a new case. The judicial assistant will present the documents to the judge at the first available opportunity. The judge will review the papers and decide if they support advancing the matter on an emergency calendar. IF A HEARING IS GRANTED AND A DATE SET, THE MOVANT IS REQUIRED TO GIVE NOTICE TO THE OPPOSING SIDE IN THE MANNER MOST LIKELY TO GIVE ACTUAL NOTICE, UNLESS NOTICE IS EXCUSED BY LAW. Failure to give timely notice to the other side may be grounds for denial of relief. Emergency hearings may be set before or after normal business hours, or during the time normally reserved for noon recess.
Do I need a Court Reporter?
Hearings or trials before a judge in the criminal and juvenile courts are recorded either electronically or by court reporters. There is no charge. However, litigants in CIVIL cases (including Family Division cases) who want their proceedings recorded, are responsible for hiring their own court reporters to attend hearings or trials. Private court reporters are listed in the yellow pages of the phone book. Most require non-lawyers to pay all or part of the anticipated expenses up front. It may be difficult to appeal an adverse ruling in a civil case unless you hire a private court reporter to attend the hearing or trial to prepare a certified transcript. The court is under no obligation to provide court reporters in civil cases even where the litigants are indigent.
Can I have a witness testify live from locations off the courthouse premises? [Manatee and Sarasota County Only]
In an effort to help reduce inconvenience to witnesses and the expense of litigation, the Court Administration Office can facilitate receiving remote testimony using high-speed transmission lines. It is technically possible to transmit live testimony to television sets located in courtrooms at the main courthouse from many locations, even outside the U.S. The service can be used for jury or non-jury cases, and hearings. This takes careful advance planning and may depend on the facilities where the remote witness is located. Litigants seeking to use this service should file a motion with the court to confirm availability of the equipment and to review any legal objections to the procedure.
How do I find a lawyer?
Visit the Florida Bar Attorney Consumer Assistance Program (ACAP) for more information. The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service can be reached at 1-800-342-8011 or 1-800-342-8060 extension 5844. You can also apply online at http://www.flabar.org/divpgm/lronline.nsf/wreferral6?openform
I have a lawyer but I am not happy with him or her. What can I do?
The answer depends upon whether the attorney is hired by you or court appointed.
A. IF YOU HIRED YOUR OWN ATTORNEY: First, you should write the attorney a letter outlining your complaints and request an appointment to discuss the matter. If that does not resolve the problem, with court approval, you may hire a substitute attorney. However, hiring a new lawyer does not necessarily mean a trial date will be re-scheduled. The new lawyer may have to prepare quickly for trial because many judges do not consider hiring of a new attorney late in the case and close to trial as good cause to continue the case. Therefore, if you are going to hire a different lawyer, do so early in the case not later. You can find more information on the attorney processes at the Florida Bar Attorney Consumer Assistance Program (ACAP) for more information. Or you can call the Bar's ACAP office at (866) 352-0707 or (850) 561-5673.
B. IF YOU HAVE A COURT APPOINTED ATTORNEY: First, you should write the attorney a letter outlining your complaints and request an appointment to discuss the matter. If that does not resolve the problem, you may write the judge a letter outlining in detail the reasons you believe you are not being properly represented and ask for a hearing. After reviewing your letter, the judge may or may not allow a hearing. Some judges may decide your request based solely on the letter and enter an order accordingly, others may require a hearing. If a hearing is granted, you may explain your reasons in court, after which the judge will make a decision.
What do I do if I need an interpreter?
Prior to your hearing you must contact…