Circuit Civil Division B

Requirements and Information

November 5, 2021

Charles Sniffen, Circuit Judge

Ruth Taylor, Judicial Assistant

Requirements & Information

Interpreters

The Twelfth Judicial Circuit provides spoken language court interpreters to limited-English-proficient persons in accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, section 90.606, Florida Statutes, and Rule 2.560, Florida Rules of Judicial Administration. If you require the assistance of an interpreter, please submit your request using the Interpreter Request Form or please call (941) 749-3659. Please submit your request as early as possible, requests are less likely to be accommodated if made with fewer than 5 business-days’ notice.

Self-Represented Litigants Please read if you do not have an attorney

The Judge must apply the same rules to all parties, regardless of whether you have an attorney. The Judge may not talk to you about your case outside of the courtroom, so please do not call to speak with the Judge. The Court’s Judicial Assistant can help you schedule a hearing. The Judicial Assistant may not help you with your case or send information to the other party or attorney for you. The Judicial Assistant may not “give the Judge a message.” Additionally, please do not ask the Judicial Assistant for the outcome of a hearing or verify that an order has been signed; you may review the Clerk’s website for details about your case. Please remember that whenever you file something with the Clerk or provide the Judge a copy, you must send a copy to all of the attorneys or parties at the same time.

Any references to the obligations of “counsel” in these requirements shall apply equally to self-represented litigants.

Local Rules & Standards of Professionalism

All attorneys must follow the Local Rules and the Twelfth Circuit Standards of Professionalism, which are available on the Manatee County Bar Association’s website or the Court’s website.

NOTE: The local rules regarding discovery motions require that the moving party actually confer with opposing counsel; in general a “good faith letter” will not satisfy this requirement. The local rules and Twelfth Circuit Standards of Professionalism are strictly enforced. Any discovery motions not in full compliance may not be heard.

If a discovery response is served or circumstances otherwise change after the filing of a motion to compel, the parties are expected to continue their efforts to confer in good faith to narrow the issues to be resolved by the court prior to the time of hearing.

Scheduling Hearings

General Rules: All motions shall be filed prior to reserving hearing time.

Scheduling of hearings with opposing party: Hearings are limited to the time reserved. The scheduling party shall confer with all counsel on the case and agree regarding the total time required for all counsel to make a complete presentation to the court. If unable to confer with opposing counsel after due diligence or good cause, the party reserving and scheduling the hearing should determine how much hearing time is needed for the movant and then double the estimate. For general scheduling procedure, counsel are referred to Administrative Order 2010-22.2, In Re: Standards of Professionalism.

Notices of Hearing: All notices of hearing shall list the exact title of the motion or other document that is to be heard, and shall note the date of filing. If a hearing is scheduled in JACS and “unlisted motion” is selected, the exact name of the motion being scheduled must be added in the “Additional Information” section of JACS.

Substitute Motions: Once a hearing is scheduled, no additional motions are to be added or substituted absent prior approval of opposing counsel and the Court. If multiple motions are being scheduled all motions shall be specifically listed.

Cross Noticing Hearings: “Piggybacking” or cross-noticing of motions or substitute motions is not permitted absent the consent of all parties and the Court.

Courtesy Copies: Copies of pleadings, memoranda of law, case law, notices of hearing, etc. must be received by the Court at least five (5) working days prior to the hearing. Delivery may be made by hand or U.S. mail, but email delivery to Circuit Civil Division B is preferred. Due to Court Security protocol, we cannot click on outside links such as DropBox, Cloud based sites or Sharing sites. Documents must be submitted as PDF type documents. We cannot open Zip files or folders. If the courtesy copies have not been provided in a timely manner, the hearing may be cancelled without notice and will need to be rescheduled.

Litigation through Judicial Assistant is not permitted.The judicial assistant has limited resources to devote to any particular case. Engaging in advocacy via email to the judicial assistant is unnecessary and not contemplated by the Rules of Civil Procedure. The scheduling of hearings is an administrative function. Parties may identify available hearing time through the JACS, or when hearing time is unavailable in JACS, may contact the judicial assistant to request hearing time. The judicial assistant is obligated to fulfill this administrative function by identifying available hearing time when requested, and is without discretion to withhold this information. The judicial assistant cannot resolve litigation disputes between the parties.

Scheduling Hearings 1 Hour or Less

All hearings 1 hour or less in length must be scheduled through the Circuit’s Judicial Automated Calendaring System (JACS). Available timeslots are 15 minutes, 30 minutes and 60 minutes.

Scheduling Hearings More Than 1 Hour

All hearings estimated to last more than 1 hour must be scheduled through the judicial assistant.

Emergency Hearings: “Emergency” motions must be filed with the Clerk of Court and served upon opposing party, except in those rare cases which permit ex parte relief. A copy of all motions requesting emergency hearing time shall be delivered directly to the judge along with a cover letter. The motion shall be detailed and include the amount of hearing time required. The judge will review the motion and determine whether an emergency hearing is required. If the Court determines that the motion is not an emergency, counsel will be notified to schedule a hearing on JACS.

Motions for Rehearing, Reconsideration and New Trial: Do not set for hearing. All Motions for Rehearing, Reconsideration or for New Trial are to be submitted directly to the judge along with a cover letter. The motion should be detailed and specific. The judge will review the motion to determine whether a hearing is required and enter an Order.

Uniform Motion Calendar (UMC Hearings)

The Court conducts UMC hearings on Wednesdays for both Civil and Foreclosure starting at 9 a.m. UMC dates and the assigned Judge may be found on the Civil Division page. All UMC hearings will occur via Zoom. The Judge will host the videoconference and you must file your notice with the Zoom credentials into the court file so that the hearing is still open to the public. UMC motions must be unopposed, non-evidentiary and five (5) minutes or less in length. Please do not schedule UMC hearings through JACS or the Judicial Assistant.

Cancellation of Hearings

General Information: JACS should be used to cancel hearings when possible. However, JACS will not authorize a cancellation when it results in short notice to the parties. When JACS does not permit a cancellation, the moving party may cancel the hearing only by emailing a copy of the efiled Notice of Cancellation to the JA. Include all parties in that email. The JA will acknowledge receipt of the notice, cancel hearing and inform all parties the hearing has been canceled.

Proposed Orders/Judgments

Proposed orders should be sent electronically in Word format to Circuit Civil Division B or through the e-Portal. Do not do both. If a proposed order is emailed, please include email addresses for all parties on the certificate of service when available. For orders submitted via mail delivery, please indicate in the cover letter that postage paid envelopes and copies for conforming are included. Parties shall only submit a proposed order when all attorneys or parties agree on the form. If there is a disagreement on the form, or an attorney or party does not respond within a reasonable period of time, you may then send the proposed order with a concise statement identifying the disagreement and the steps you took to resolve the dispute. The opposing attorney or party may submit at the same time an alternate proposed order. Orders submitted to the court for signature shall be submitted by only one method of delivery to avoid the same document being executed more than once.

Unsigned orders or judgments should not be sent to the clerk’s office for transmission to the judge.

Ex Parte Motions and Orders

The Court will not accept, consider or rule upon any of the following motions sent to the judge’s office ex parte:

  1. Motions to Amend (once any party has filed an Answer or other pleading)
  2. Motions for Default
  3. Motions to Set Aside
  4. Motions to Vacate
  5. Any discovery motions (to Compel, for Sanctions, for Protective Order, etc.)

These motions will be returned to counsel. Counsel shall schedule a hearing with notice to all parties. Motions are set using our online automated scheduling system, JACS.

Civil Magistrate David Caskey

The Court recognizes that hearing time is often limited due to substantial demand. Therefore the following matters shall be scheduled before Magistrate Caskey unless either side files a written objection: all motions directed to the pleadings, discovery, service of process, jurisdiction and arbitration. These motions are scheduled through Jessica Carrasco, Magistrate Caskey’s Assistant at (941) 749-3650 or email. In addition to the traditional matters heard by Magistrate Caskey, the parties may utilize Magistrate Caskey for any other matter to which the parties consent, including injunction hearings and summary judgment motions.

Prior to scheduling a hearing before Magistrate Caskey the parties must complete the “Order of Referral” and submit the Order for entry to the assigned Judge. A form Order can be found under the Forms section of the Circuit Civil page.

Feel free to contact the Court’s Judicial Assistant for help.

Motion Hearings Before the Magistrate

The following is a list of motions that are to be scheduled with Magistrate Caskey, absent a written objection. The list below is not all inclusive. If you have a motion NOT listed below that is either discovery related or directed to a pleading, that motion should be scheduled in front of the Magistrate. The only time one of these motions is to be scheduled in front of the assigned Judge is if an “Objection to Referral to Magistrate” has been filed.

Discovery-Related Motions:

  • Compel
  • Contempt
  • Discovery Order (other than ex parte)
  • Extend Time
  • Objections to motions
  • Interrogatories
  • Objections to Production
  • Protective Order
  • Quash
  • Sanctions (re: Discovery Matters)
  • Any additional discovery-related motion not listed

Motions Directed to Pleadings: Add/Drop Parties, (including substitution of parties), Amend, Default, Default Final Judgment, Dismiss, Intervene, Judgment on Pleadings, More Definite Statement, Strike

Motions NOT heard by Magistrate: Motions requiring an evidentiary hearing, Summary Judgment, Relief from Judgment, Writ of Possession and any trial-related motions (Limine, Strike Witnesses and Exhibit lists, Trial Continuances, etc.)

Differentiated Case Management Protocol

Pursuant to AOSC-20-23, Amendment 10, and AO 2021-14.1, each case will be designated as “streamlined,” “general,” or “complex” upon filing. The parties are required to meet and confer within 30 days of service of the complaint on the last of all named defendants. Parties may move the Court to change the designation upon filing a written motion. Plaintiffs shall initiate the consultation with all defendants to either agree to a Case Management Report or the parties are required to attend the initial case management conference. Please refer to the Initial Case Management Order filed in your case and follow the specific instructions carefully.

Case Management Reports: The parties are required to use the form Case Management Report approved for the 12th Circuit. The CMR can be found on the civil page of the circuit website. The CMR must be filed in the Court file. Do not send these to the judge through the ePortal or the judicial assistant via email. Due to the high volume of cases set for initial case managements, if the Case Management Report is not submitted at least one week before the hearing, you may still be required to attend. If you have questions about how to fill out the CMR, or the case management protocol, please contact the Civil Case Manager.

If you are not excused by Court order, you are required to attend the Initial Case Management. This applies even if all the parties are not served. Please do not call the judicial assistant to request excusal from the initial case management for this reason.

Foreclosures

Regular Foreclosure Motions and Summary Judgment Motions shall be heard by Zoom. All residential mortgage foreclosure trials, whether Homestead or Non-Homestead, must be set using JACS and placed onto either the Foreclosure Contested docket or Foreclosure Uncontested docket before the assigned judge (currently Judge Diana Moreland). For more information regarding Residential Mortgage Foreclosure, please visit the Foreclosures page.

Hearings scheduled on the wrong docket may be cancelled without notice.

Commercial and Real Property Foreclosures: All commercial or real property foreclosures (basically, everything except residential or nonresidential foreclosures) must be set before the assigned Judge using the assigned Judge’s regular JACS calendar.

Trials

General Information: All Case Management Conferences will be held via the Court’s Zoom. Major Trials lasting more than two weeks are generally scheduled during April and October each year. See the Major Trial Calendar for Case Management, Jury Trial, Non-Jury Trial, & PTC dates & times.

Forms, orders and information regarding trials are available on the website.

Case Management: When a case is at issue and ready for trial, Counsel shall confer and select a case management date from the list of preset Case Management Conference (CMC) dates that can be found in the Judge’s area of the Circuit’s website and shall prepare an Order Setting Case Management Conference. The proposed order can be emailed to our office or mailed along with copies for conforming and stamped, addressed envelopes. Do not use both options, select one. All parties must be included in the email. Contact the JA for the Zoom information for that day.

The parties are required to appear at the CMC unless a fully executed Stipulation for Trial and Order Setting Case for Trial and Referral to Mediation are prepared by counsel and submitted to the court for signature at least three (3) business days prior to the hearing.

Note: If counsel can agree to a trial date, a Case Management Conference is not necessary. Plaintiff’s counsel can submit a Trial Stipulation along with Order Scheduling Trial and Pre-Trial Conference (with copies to conform & stamped, addressed envelopes. Contact our office for Zoom information for the PTC.

All Case Management Conferences are set before the Judge using order/master calendar dates.

Pre-Trial Conference (PTC): Attendance at Pre-Trial Conference is mandatory. Counsel who will actually be trying the case or an attorney with authority to make all decisions shall appear at the Pre-Trial Conference. Counsel and self-represented litigants shall have conferred with all parties and witness to confirm their availability for the entire trial period prior to the Pre-Trial Conference.

Continuances: Trials are not continued by stipulation until a motion or stipulation stating the need for the continuance are received by the Court, the Court has reviewed the same and the Judicial Assistant has notified the parties after the Court has made a determination.

Pursuant to Rule 1.440(b) a notice for trial” announces that the action is at issue and “ready to be set for trial.” Continuances to complete discovery or for other reasons that suggest that the action is not ready for trial at the time the “notice of trial” was filed and served will be strongly disfavored and may result in it not being placed on a trial docket.

Pursuant to Rule 2.545(e), Florida Rules of Judicial Administration and Rule 1.460, Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, motions for continuance shall be in writing and must also be signed by the party, not just their counsel. The Court must approve stipulations to continue a trial, once the cause has been set on the trial docket.

Trial Schedule: After the Pre-Trial Conference, the trial schedule will be created and posted on the internet. It is the responsibility of the attorneys and all parties to see when their case is scheduled to begin. All counsel are advised that they will be subject to being called to trial any time during the trial period with 24 hours advance notice. Only the Court may remove a case from the “active” trial docket upon written request from either counsel, indicating that the matter has settled or otherwise resolved. A Final Judgment of Voluntary Dismissal (filed by the Petitioner/Plaintiff) or other final disposition (and final disposition form) must be filed with the Clerk of Court within thirty (30) days after written notice to remove the action from the “active” trial dockets. Failure to do so may result in sanctions.

Daubert Motions and Motions in Limine: Because of the substantial time required for Daubert  hearings, counsel shall request hearing time at the earliest opportunity once the need for a Daubert  hearing is identified. It is the court’s preference that the hearing be completed prior to the pretrial conference. To the contrary, motions in limine will generally not be heard until the case has been selected and set for trial following the pretrial conference and will be resolved before or during the trial period. Motions in limine shall not be scheduled for hearing without the court’s permission. Boilerplate motions in limine that seek an order enforcing standard rules of evidence are discouraged. Motions in limine should be tailored to each case and shall include: 1) the basis for the belief that opposing counsel will seek to introduce inadmissible evidence; and 2) the reason(s) that a contemporaneous objection would be insufficient and/or the prejudice that could result if the motion were not granted.

Temporary COVID-19 Protocols

Until further notice, hearings will be conducted in the manner set forth below.

In-Person Hearings

The following hearings shall be conducted in-person, unless otherwise ordered by the Court: Jury Trials, Non-Jury Trials, Foreclosure Trials and Evidentiary Hearings. The procedure for a Zoom witness appearance is on the Technology Services page.

Remote Hearings

All other hearings will be conducted using the Zoom platform or via tele-conference in order to promote efficiency, convenience, and a cost-effective resolution of cases. Judge Sniffen will host the Zoom meeting. Please visit the Public Court Hearings page of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit website for Zoom log-on credentials and procedures, including requirements for noticing a Zoom hearing, Zoom etiquette, etc.

The Remote Courtroom is still a public Courtroom. Unless you are unable, the Court expects that you attend the remote hearing with your camera on and that you conduct yourself professionally.

If all parties agree, Non-Jury Trials and Evidentiary Hearings more than one hour in length may be conducted by Zoom. For evidentiary hearings, the hearing notice must indicate that all parties agree to the hearing being conducted remotely, and must comply with the Zoom hearing notice requirements referenced above. If the parties agree, there is no need to file a motion or obtain an order of approval by the Court. Please remember that the Court cannot electronically file your exhibits, and they must be either filed in the Court file or you must send a hard copy in advance of the hearing or trial. When in doubt, please contact the Judicial Assistant before an evidentiary hearing to make sure that your evidence will be properly submitted before the Court.

Any witness testifying at an evidentiary hearing or non-jury trial by Zoom must appear on camera and must present a valid form of identification.

If all parties agree to an in-person hearing for a hearing that is not listed in the “in-person” section above, you may notice the hearing for an in-person hearing without permission of the Court. You must include all parties’ agreement on the notice of hearing.

The court has the ability to conduct a limited number of “hybrid” hearings with some participants appearing in person and others appearing remotely. Substantial coordination and planning by the court and staff are required, so please notify the judicial assistant at the earliest opportunity if a hybrid hearing is requested. A minimum of ten (10) days will normally be required.

Contact Information