Circuit Felony Division III

Letters: A, G-O

Requirements and Information

September 14, 2022

Frederick P. Mercurio, Circuit Judge

Karen Yost, Judicial Assistant

Requirements & Information

Local Rules and Standards of Professionalism

All attorneys must follow the Local Rules and adhere to the Twelfth Circuit Standards of Professionalism, adopted by the Circuit on October 20, 2010, in Administrative Order 2010-22.2.

Requirements for All Hearings

General Information

  • All motions must be filed prior to requesting or reserving hearing time.
  • All hearings 60 minutes or less in length are to be scheduled through the JACS. Attorneys are not permitted to schedule back-to-back hearings in order to acquire a longer block of hearing time in excess of one hour. Any hearing scheduled in this manner will be canceled. If you should require more than one hour, you must call the Judicial Assistant.
  • All requests for hearing time for one hour or longer must be reviewed and approved by the Judge.
  • All pleas and motions shall be set on days designated for pleas and motions. Any pleas or motions set on an undesignated day will be cancelled without notice.
  • Plea and motion dates are assigned to a specific Assistant State Attorney. The scheduling party must determine which Assistant State Attorney is assigned to a case and schedule his/her plea or motion accordingly. Please consult the judge’s monthly master calendars for assigned days before setting a case for hearing. Any hearing set on a day not assigned to the specific Assistant State Attorney will be cancelled.
  • The Court is aware it may be necessary to set pleas and motions for dates other than those designated to a specific Assistant State Attorney. However, on such occasions, the scheduling party must:
    • Contact the assigned Assistant State Attorney to clear the date and time from JACS;
    • Contact the Judicial Assistant to confirm the date and time utilized, giving the reason that an alternative date has been selected.
  • All hearings are limited to the time reserved. The party opposing the motion is entitled to equal time; therefore, the party reserving and scheduling the hearing should determine how much hearing time he/she needs and then double the estimate. In the alternative, the scheduling party should confer with opposing counsel and agree regarding the total time required.
  • Any party wishing to add a case or hearing to the docket after JACS has closed must contact the Judicial Assistant no later than 10 a.m. the day prior to the date requested. Cases may not be added to the docket without the approval of the Judge. For example, to place an additional case on the Tuesday docket the requesting party must contact the Judicial Assistant no later than 10 a.m. on Monday. The requesting party must have the approval of opposing counsel prior to contacting the Judicial Assistant. Do not contact the Clerk'’ office to add on cases. If approved, the Court has to prepare an amended docket and notify the Clerk.
  • The scheduling attorney must submit a paper copy of the notice of hearing, the motion to be heard, and any relevant court filing to which the parties may refer during the hearing by hand-delivery or mail at least three days prior to the hearing. Both parties shall submit any supporting case law at least three days prior to the hearing. The Court does not accept email submission of documents for hearings absent Court approval.
  • Inmate Transport: The scheduling attorney is responsible for notifying the bailiff’s office (judicial security) if an inmate needs to be transported from the jail for a court proceeding and for cancelling the request if the hearing is cancelled. Information from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, which clarifies who is responsible for ordering inmates from the Manatee County Central Jail for court appearances at the Manatee County Judicial Center, can be found on the Manatee County Sheriff's Office Judicial Security Section document.
  • Once a motion is scheduled, subsequent motions may not be added or cross-noticed without prior approval of the Court and opposing counsel.
  • Once a particular motion is scheduled, another motion shall not be substituted in the event the original motion is cancelled or resolved with less than ten (10) days’ notice absent prior approval by the Court or opposing counsel.
  • Requests for emergency or expedited hearing time must be made by contacting the JA by phone and then emailing a cover letter with the motion to the judicial assistant. The Judge will review the motion to determine whether an expedited or emergency hearing is warranted. The judicial assistant is not authorized to offer or schedule emergency or expedited hearing time. The moving attorney is required to confer with opposing counsel in a good faith effort to resolve the issue prior to filing an emergency motion. Any emergency motion must include a certificate of good faith that states the movant has contacted opposing counsel and his/her position on the relief sought.
  • The Court has designated certain times on the calendar for special set hearings. Requests to schedule motions during these times shall be made by e-mailing the JA.
  • JACS should be used to cancel hearings whenever possible as soon as the scheduling attorney is aware the need for the time no longer exists. However, JACS will block a cancellation when it results in short notice to the parties, usually less than three days notice. When JACS does not permit a cancellation, the moving party must cancel the hearing by contacting the Judicial Assistant. Counsel shall promptly e-file a Notice of Cancellation with the Clerk of Court and notice all parties. The attorney cancelling the hearing is responsible for notifying judicial security when an inmate will not be needed. If a hearing is cancelled, a defendant should NOT be transported to court.
  • Single Defendant/Multiple Cases: When scheduling a plea or hearing on a single defendant with multiple cases, all case numbers are required. The lowest case number shall be placed on JACS in the box labeled “Case Number: ____CF____” to reserve the necessary time. All additional case numbers shall be placed on JACS in the section labeled “Notes:____”. The written notice eFiled with the Clerk of Court and provided to the assigned Assistant State Attorney and to the Court must include all case numbers.
  • Multiple Defendants/Single Motion: When scheduling a hearing on the same Motion referencing multiple Defendants, with several attorneys or even a single attorney, only one Defendant's case number shall be placed on JACS in the box labeled “Case Number: ____CF____” to reserve the time. All additional Defendants' case numbers shall be placed on the JACS in the section labeled “Notes:____”. All parties using the reserved hearing time shall confer to coordinate the time necessary for the hearing, file a written notice with the Clerk of Court, and provide said Notice to the Assistant State Attorney assigned to the cases.
  • Oral motions to continue are not permitted at any time. The Court strictly adheres to the mandates established by the United States Supreme Court, Florida Supreme Court, Fla.R.Jud.Admin.2.545(e) and Fla.R.Crim.P.3.190(f). All motions for continuance shall be in writing, unless made at trial, and signed by the attorney as well as the party (the Defendant, if a defense motion) unless good cause is shown. In addition, all requests for continuance shall include: a Certificate of Good Faith; be signed by the party (the Defendant), indicate whether the Defendant is in local or DOC custody, the date the information/indictment was filed, the charge, the number of previous continuances, waiver of speedy trial, who requested the previous continuance and all efforts made to move the case, and resolve discovery issues. The Court strongly encourages the use of discovery enforcement motions to facilitate the movement of cases towards resolution, including but not limited to orders to show cause, motions to compel, motions for statements of particulars, etc.
  • A motion to continue shall be timely filed and be calendared through JACS. If there is no time available, the attorney shall contact the Judicial Assistant to request hearing time. If the attorney fails to schedule a hearing the pending motion for continuance shall be deemed waived. If there is an agreement by all parties to a continuance, a motion must be filed and a hearing scheduled, absent a written court order. Stipulations to continue will not be considered without a filed motion to continue. Stipulations and motions to continue must include the grounds/reasons for the requested or stipulated continuance. The Court is ultimately responsible for granting or denying a continuance even if the parties stipulate to one. No witnesses or defendant(s) shall be excused until such time as the Court rules on the motion/stipulation for continuance.
  • Motions for Rehearing, Reconsideration, Arrest of Judgment, New Trial and/ or Motion to Withdraw Plea: All Motions for Rehearing, Reconsideration, Arrest of Judgment, New Trial and/or Motion to Withdraw Plea must be filed with the Clerk of Court and a copy must be simultaneously provided to the judge’s office. Do not set for hearing on JACS. After review, the judge will determine if a written response or hearing is required.
  • Motions to Suppress. In most cases, no less than one hour should be scheduled for a Motion to Suppress. If more than one hour is required, contact the JA for hearing time.
  • Sentencing Hearings: If a PSI has been ordered, the Court will address the State and Defense first to inquire if there are any disputes as to the factual accuracy of the report. Defense counsel shall provide their client with a copy of the report before the hearing. If there are objections, the Court will resolve them; otherwise, if there are no objections the Court will conclude that everything in the report is accurate.
    The Court will then request the score sheet and inquire if there are any objections. Once again, Defense counsel shall have reviewed the score sheet with their client before the sentencing hearing. If there is an objection, the Court will resolve it. If no objection, the Court will ask the State the sentence they are seeking, then the defense will be asked the same question. After that inquiry, the State will present any testimony or evidence they want the Court to consider. The Defense will then present any testimony or evidence they want the Court to consider, including the defendant’s allocution, if they so desire. The State will be allowed a brief rebuttal argument.
  • RE: Departure Requests: Requests for a downward departure from the criminal punishment code scoresheet presumptive sentence shall be in writing stating the legal authority for the proposed departure, i.e. the rule or statute, as well as supporting case authority and a brief factual basis to support the departure request.
    • Departure requests shall be noticed five days before the hearing. It is, however, acceptable to file at the time of sentencing if the State is previously aware of the request and eliminates the need to file a motion to continue to secure witnesses to rebut any facts necessary to support the departure.
    • The State is free to file a written response to the Defense submission but is not required to. They are, however, required to submit case law to the Court and opposing counsel at least three (3) days before the hearing in conformance with the court’s general requirements (see case law submission requirements).
      The purpose of the Departure requirement is to ensure all parties have notice and an opportunity to prepare for the hearing. If the request is a run of the mill departure, such as a request for drug offender probation pursuant to Florida Statute 948.20, the Court will not require strict compliance with this requirement.
  • Motions/Orders for Release of Uncharged Defendants:
    • Motions to release uncharged defendants must be emailed to the Court and the appropriate ASA followed by a telephone call advising that the motion has been filed.
    • The State will have until 4:30 p.m. of the day a motion was received to respond to Defense counsel and the Judicial Assistant regarding his/her intention to either file an Information, object to the release of the defendant, or file a Notice of Case Action stating that they are declining to prosecute. If the motion is received in the afternoon, the State shall respond by the following business day at Noon. If the JA does not receive a response from the State Attorney by the specified deadline a hearing will be set on the next available Video Bond hearing date.
  • It is the Defense Attorney’s responsibility to notify the Court Interpreters office of the need for an interpreter for court proceedings. The scheduling attorney must indicate in the notes field on JACS when scheduling a hearing that an interpreter is needed. See the Court Interpreters page.
  • Motions to Modify or Terminate Community Control or Probation: All motions to terminate or modify community control or probation must be filed with the Clerk of Court with a copy provided to the judicial assistant, who will then submit the motion to both the State and DOC requesting their position as to the motion. If neither the State or DOC object to the request, the judge may consider the motion without a hearing. In the event that either DOC or the State object, a hearing may be set by the Court that requires a mandatory court appearance by the State, Defendant and supervising officer.
    Contested motions to modify or terminate probation will be heard on VOP days or specially set by the Court on the assigned assistant attorney day.
  • ePortal Submission of Proposed Orders. Pursuant to Administrative Order 2022-1.2, judges in the 12th Circuit must accept submission of proposed Orders through the Florida ePortal. However, the submission of Orders through the ePortal will not result in counsel receiving orders any faster. The judge does not have access to the SmartBench queue and all orders must be reviewed and processed by the judicial assistant before downloading to the judge's batch. Any ePortal submissions must include a cover letter and are limited to uncontested/stipulated Orders. All other orders will be rejected by the judicial assistant. See Submission of Court Orders & Documents section as to the judge's preference as to submitting proposed Orders.
Submission of Court Orders & Documents. Following a hearing, counsel may submit proposed orders by email ONLY if instructed by the Judge to do so after the court proceeding. Submission of orders and other documents/reports shall be done by regular mail, overnight services, or hand-delivery absent an emergency or unless instructed to do so by the Judge. This office does not provide electronic copies of Orders. Attorneys who fail to provide conforming copies and envelopes should retrieve their orders via Attorney/Subscriber Access (Manatee County) or ClerkNet (Sarasota).

Case Management

Case Management hearings are held on Thursdays at 8:30 a.m. (check monthly calendars for judicial conference/vacation schedule). Attorneys and defendants are expected to be present at that time. The presence of defendants at Case Management is mandatory unless excused by the Court.

The State and defense shall comply with Circuit Criminal Administrative Order 2009-1 which outlines the procedures for Case Management hearings. The Court considers CMCs to be significant, meaningful proceedings. The Court expects the State to have provided the Defense with a Discovery Response and plea offer with sufficient time for review prior to the CMC so that Defense counsel may review the Discovery, confer with the client and convey the plea offer.

If the parties stipulate to a trial date they must use the approved Stipulation for Trial Date, also located in the courtroom. The form must be completely filled out and contain the defendant’s signature. If the parties cannot agree on a trial date, the Court will select one.

Once a trial date is stipulated to and/or set by the Court, absent an unforeseen emergency, the Court will rarely grant a continuance.

Stipulations for trial may be filled out and submitted to the court in advance of Case Management, however they must be received by the Court three days prior to the Case Management to allow time for the court’s review. It is the obligation of the attorneys to confirm, either by checking the electronic court file or by contacting the Judicial Assistant, that the stipulation has been approved and an order entered. If the stipulation has been approved prior to Case Management, neither the attorneys nor the defendant need to appear.

At the Case Management hearing defendants may enter pleas and are encouraged to do so.

The Court expects attorneys to comply with all deadlines contained on the Trial Stipulation and Order.

The Court will consider setting cases that are likely to involve complicated legal or case management issues and that may require extensive judicial management to expedite the case, keep costs reasonable, or promote judicial efficiency for Major Trial Case Management hearings. Attorneys are encouraged to suggest cases for consideration. The Court will set these conferences in cases it deems appropriate. In these cases the Court will enter an order designating a case as a major case and require attendance at a Major Trial Case Management hearing. Attorneys are expected to bring their professional and personal calendars to case management so that depositions and motions can be scheduled.

Docket Sounding

Docket Sounding is held two weeks before the trial period. DEFENDANTS’ IN PERSON APPEARANCE AT DOCKET SOUNDING IS MANDATORY unless excused by the court.

No motions of any kind (oral or written), including motions to continue, will be heard at docket sounding. The purpose of docket sounding is to enter a plea or announce ready for trial. If the case is ready for trial the attorneys shall be prepared to advise the Court as to how many days the trial will last (including jury selection), whether speedy trial is an issue, and any potential calendar conflicts. Counsel must comply with trial deadlines and have motions heard prior to docket sounding. Contact the JA if hearing time is unavailable on JACS.


Counsel are encouraged to discuss and to agree on pleas that may be entered by a defendant. However, ultimate responsibility for sentence determination rests with the trial judge. Negotiated pleas are subject to the court’s approval.

Plea Cut-off Date: The negotiated plea cut-off date for all cases set on a trial docket is the Friday of the docket sounding week unless otherwise stated. Thereafter all pleas will be open pleas and require a sentencing hearing and pre- sentence investigation report (if requested and if applicable) unless the charge(s) are amended in some significant manner, or the court has extended the negotiated plea cut- off date due to particular circumstances.

All score sheets must be completed in full (or to the extent possible on an open plea) so that, at most, only the judge’s signature will be required.

Pleas to and/or Requests for Community Control: In all cases in which the defendant has negotiated a Community Control sentence or will be seeking Community Control as a sanction from the Court at sentencing, the defendant and his/her attorney shall read, review, and sign the Community Control Disclosure Form (available on the circuit’s website) and file it with the Clerk along with the Acknowledgment and Waiver of Rights form.

Trial Scheduling

In most cases trial scheduling for all cases on the trial docket will take place on the Friday of docket sounding week at the time designated by the judge. Defendants may, but are not required to attend trial scheduling.

The purpose of trial scheduling is to set the trial order. Attorneys are encouraged (but not required) to attend. The court will consider special scheduling requests.

NOTE: If attorneys do not appear the Court will conclude there are no trial conflicts and that the trial can be set at any time during the two-week trial period.

Motions will not be heard at trial scheduling.

The final trial docket will be distributed and posted on the website as soon as practicable following trial scheduling.

Trial periods are set for two (2) weeks. Although a trial order will be established, counsel with trials set for a trial period shall be prepared to go to trial the first day of the first week of the period and remain available for the entire two-week trial term.


The jury trial period is a two-week trial period. Two judges are generally available for trial during the term. Due to Covid-19 backlog, a senior judge may also be available.

At 8:30 a.m. on the first day of the trial period all cases remaining on the trial docket will be called up for trial in Courtroom 8A.

So as not to keep jurors waiting, pleas will not be taken Monday morning unless the case is called up for trial. Exceptions may be made under certain circumstances, such as the jury panel not being ready.

Unless a case is given a specific date and time certain for commencement of trial, all cases must be ready for trial on the first day of the trial period.

Counsel shall confer and proposed jury instructions shall be submitted to the Court via email by Noon on the first day of trial.

In Custody Defendants Set for Trial: Defense Counsel must contact the Port Manatee Jail prior to the start of trial and provide clothes for inmates at the jail. Judicial Security will not accept clothes and dress defendants at the Judicial Center the morning of trial.

Exhibits: In document intensive cases the Court requires the parties to confer with the Clerk of Court prior to trial and present the Clerk with an exhibit list as well as the exhibits. Additionally, the Court requires the parties to provide courtesy paper copies of the exhibit list and marked exhibits to opposing counsel, as well as the Court.

If either side is going to use an exhibit that is in a different form/format than has been prepared and submitted with discovery, the Court requires an exact copy of the exhibit to be delivered to opposing counsel no less than five (5) business days before trial. Additionally, counsel shall disclose to opposing counsel where in the discovery the information contained in the newly formatted exhibit can be found.

Pre-marked exhibits: State to use numbers; Defense to use letters.

Redaction of Exhibits: If any party requests that any portion of an exhibit, i.e., recordings, cell phone records, text messages, email messages, transcripts, etc., be redacted, the request for redaction shall be made to opposing counsel no less than five (5) business days before trial. If the parties cannot stipulate to the redaction, a motion must be filed and scheduled for hearing prior to trial.

Bond Hearings

Video bond hearings are scheduled on Tuesdays at 8:30 and 9 a.m., except on trial weeks when they will be scheduled at 8 a.m. Bond hearings are intended to be scheduled for 5 minutes or less.

Bond hearings requiring more than 10 minutes of hearing time shall be scheduled by Defense counsel on JACS following the scheuling requirements in the General Information section.

VOP/VOCC and Related Proceedings

The VOP conference date is generally held on a Monday at 9:30 a.m. Pleas will be taken on this day, but VOP pleas can also be scheduled prior to the VOP date using JACS. VOP hearings will be held in the afternoon beginning at 1:30 pm. Subpoenas should be issued accordingly.

Early Termination: The Court will presume that early termination is possible in the express absence of no early termination being an expressly negotiated term agreed to by the parties at the time of the plea and sentencing.

Conferences: On days when VOPs are heard, the Court will take pleas and other non- evidentiary VOP motions in the morning.

Motions to Modify or Terminate Community Control or Probation: Contested motions to modify or terminate probation (filed by defense counsel) will be heard at 1:30 p.m. on VOP days unless otherwise scheduled on the assigned assistant attorney day. Refer to the General Information section of these requirements for the judicial procedure for submission of motions to terminate or modify community control or probation.

Contact Information