CIRCUIT CIVIL DIVISION H

Requirements and Information

September 7, 2022

HUNTER W. CARROLL, Circuit Judge

SARAH SCIBAK, Judicial Assistant

Requirements & Information

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. Judge Carroll’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.” 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 Sarasota County 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 the attorneys or parties at the same time.

Court Preferences & Requirements

Applicable to all divisions

Procedures for both Family Law and Civil Divisions follow these general requirements. They are applicable to all divisions.

Just, speedy, and inexpensive determinations of every action. Florida Court rules are designed to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action. Judge Carroll adheres to this philosophy, and Judge Carroll expects the attorneys and litigants will govern themselves accordingly.

Local Rules and Standards of Professionalism: Both the Local Rules for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit and the circuit’s Standards of Professionalism are available on the Court’s website. Judge Carroll expects all attorneys who appear to know and adhere to these requirements.

Mandatory use of Document Identification Number [DIN]: The Clerk’s Office on the progress docket identifies a unique, sequential Document Identification Number [DIN] for each docket entry. Once assigned by the Clerk, the DIN does not change. Please include the DIN when referencing any filing, especially on hearing notices. Use of the DIN will reduce confusion as to what motion is to be heard.

In-person or Zoom after COVID-19?

These Court events will be in-person in the Courthouse: jury trials, nonjury trials, evidentiary hearings 75 minutes or more, and interpersonal violence injunction hearings (e.g., Domestic Violence, Stalking, etc.). The parties by motion may seek an alternate appearance method. These Court events will be held in Courtroom D, South County Courthouse, 4004 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice, Florida 34293.

All other hearings can be in-person, by Zoom, or both at the discretion of the party.

Judge Carroll has a hybrid Courtroom, meaning that Judge Carroll can conduct Court with parties appearing in-person and remotely via Zoom simultaneously. This is not (yet) a circuit wide set-up, and most Judges in the Twelfth Circuit do not yet have access to a hybrid courtroom.

For any hearing before Judge Carroll that is 60 minutes in length or less the parties may appear in-person in Courtroom D or remotely via Zoom without any special request and without notification to the Court. The parties by motion may seek an alternate appearance method. Please do not contact the Court’s Judicial Assistant to notify the Court whether parties intend to appear remotely via Zoom or in-person as each party has the discretion to choose which appearance method that party prefers.

When drafting a Notice of Hearing for a hearing 60 minutes in length or less in length, you must include Judge Carroll’s Zoom credentials and explain that the parties may appear in-person or remotely. Judge Carroll will host all Zoom events.

Without exception, exhibits for evidentiary hearings as well as indexes/exhibit lists must be delivered to the Courthouse in two hard-copy sets (one for the Judge and one for the Clerk) at least two days prior to the evidentiary hearing. Plaintiff/Petitioner’s exhibits are to be numbered, i.e. “1, 2, 3…” and Defendant/Respondent’s exhibits are to be lettered, “A, B, C…” This is, of course, the same procedure to be followed for trial exhibits.

You are responsible to ensure the notice of hearing contains Judge Carroll’s Zoom credentials, the appropriate ADA notice, and the appropriate DIN for each motion to be heard. Judge Carroll’s Zoom log-on credential are:

Judge Carroll's Zoom Credentials

  • Launch Zoom
  • Click “Join A Meeting”
  • Meeting ID: 583 020 2997
    Password: 040201
  • Audio only: (253) 215-8782 and use the same Meeting ID
If you are a person with a disability who needs any accommodation in order to participate in this proceeding, you are entitled, at no cost to you, to the provision of certain assistance. Please contact the Sarasota County Jury Office, P.O. Box 3079, Sarasota, Florida 34230-3079, (941) 861-8000, at least seven (7) days before your scheduled court appearance, or immediately upon receiving this notification if the time before the scheduled appearance is less than seven (7) days; if you are hearing or voice impaired, call 711.

Scheduling and cancelling hearings: You must schedule and cancel hearings 60 minutes in duration or less through the JACS. Please do not combine timeslots. Please contact Judge Carroll’s Judicial Assistant to schedule or cancel hearings requiring more than one hour. When Judge Carroll’s Judicial Assistant has finalized the docket— approximately five days in advance of the hearing—JACS will not permit you to cancel the hearing. In that situation, please call the Judicial Assistant to cancel a hearing. You must immediately send notice of cancellation to all parties.

Case Management Conferences (CMC): Judge Carroll encourages the use of early Case Management Conferences, especially in complex cases, multiple party litigation, or any case that might benefit from early Court intervention. Unless excused by the Court in advance, all Case Management Conferences are mandatory. (For civil cases, please see the section entitled Initial CMC.)

Uniform Motion Calendar (UMC): The Court conducts UMC hearings most Thursday mornings at 8:30 a.m. UMC motions must be non-evidentiary and 5 minutes or less in length. You must schedule these UMC hearings through the Court’s Judicial Assistant. You are responsible for filing and serving the notice of hearing. You must include the DIN of the motion to be heard on the notice of hearing.

Withdrawing/Substituting as Attorney: If you are withdrawing/substituting as attorney, please use the appropriate downloadable Order Granting Substitution/Withdrawal of Attorney. If neither form accomplishes what you need, please track the language regarding the Clerk deactivating the attorney within the Case Management System and include in the title of the order the directive to the Clerk to update the Case Management System. Without this language the Clerk’s system will show you as attorney of record. No hearing is needed if (1) there is no pending trial; and (2) you file and submit client consent to the Court with the motion and proposed order. Otherwise, you must notice the motion for hearing and include the client on the certificate of service.

Note: You must separately remove yourself from the ePortal.

Courtesy copies for hearings: The Court encourages text searchable electronic copies of the notice of hearing, motion(s), supporting material, and any directly relevant cases, which must be delivered no later than three days prior to the hearing. Please give opposing counsel—and the Court—the opportunity to be prepared to address your motion. Please do not send paper copies to the Court.

Compelling discovery. Both the Local Rules for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit and the Circuit’s Standards of Professionalism discuss motions to compel discovery. The Court draws particular attention to Administrative Order 2010- 22.2 § E(1)(d), which provides: “Motions to compel discovery shall quote in full each interrogatory, question on deposition, request for admission, or request for production to which the motion is addressed and the objection and grounds given by the opposing parties.”

Proposed orders [CHANGED REQUIREMENT]: In compliance with a directive from the Chief Justice of Florida, this Circuit is moving to acceptance of proposed orders through the ePortal, not through email. Please see Administrative Order 22-1.2, entered January 14, 2022, for details and specific requirements.

Effective immediately, all proposed orders submitted by attorneys to Judge Carroll must be submitted in compliance with Administrative Order 22-1.2 through the ePortal directly to Judge Carroll, and not filed on the Progress Docket or submitted via email. All proposed orders must be in Word format only. All proposed orders must be accompanied by a cover letter that is also submitted through the ePortal in PDF/A format. The submitting attorney must ensure all parties/attorneys receive a courtesy copy of both the proposed Order and cover letter. Further, any proposed attachment to a proposed order must simultaneously be submitted through the ePortal in PDF/A format.

To be clear:

  • Proposed orders: Word format only
  • Cover letters: PDF/A format only
  • Attachments to orders: PDF/A format only

Judge Carroll expects that you will 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 does not respond within a reasonable time, you may then send the proposed order with a concise statement identifying the disagreement and the steps you took. The opposing attorney may submit at the same time an alternate proposed order through the ePortal. Please do not include a directive such as “hold this proposed order for x days for an objection to be lodged.” The Court will reject proposed orders seeking to put this burden on the Court or the Court's staff.

For readability purposes, Judge Carroll encourages Bookman Old Style, 12-point font with one-inch margins when drafting proposed Orders.

The only two exceptions to submitting a proposed Order through the ePortal are, if you are submitting an Income Withholding Order or a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. These specific forms are only available in fillable PDF format and will not be accepted through the ePortal for signature. You may submit the above-mentioned to the Court’s Judicial Assistant.

Downloadable proposed orders: The Court utilizes several standard orders, which are available for your use and download. Please check this site often as the Court from time to time adds new or modifies existing proposed orders.

Orders under advisement: Judge Carroll attempts to rule from the bench where appropriate. If Judge Carroll takes a matter under advisement, Judge Carroll tries to rule as quickly as possible under the then current circumstances. Please do not call to ask about the status of the order. If four weeks have elapsed without a ruling, the movant may call the Judicial Assistant to advise that the matter has been under advisement for four weeks. The four weeks begins upon the Court’s receipt of the last post-hearing submission (e.g., transcripts, supplemental briefs, or legal authority).

Evidence for evidentiary hearings/trials: The Clerk’s office requires evidence admitted during an evidentiary hearing to be in paper format without leave of court. Unless the Court instructions you otherwise, please provide the Court’s Judicial Assistant two paper sets of all evidence at least two business days before the hearing/trial. One set will become the official exhibits Judge Carroll delivers to the Clerk. The other set will be for Judge Carroll’s use. Unless the Court directs otherwise, the Plaintiff/Petition should mark their exhibits ahead of time as “Plaintiff/Petition 1, 2, 3, etc.,” and the Defendant/Respondent should mark their exhibits ahead of time as “Defendant/Respondent A, B, C, etc.”

Electronic evidence and technology: The Court has limited technology available for use in the Courtroom. There are two basic considerations you should keep in mind when planning on using electronic evidence. First, whether the Court has the electronic capability to review the electronic evidence in the Courtroom. Second, how the Clerk will “receive” the electronic evidence. Wherever possible, please convert your electronic evidence into paper format and introduce the paper copy. For instance, electronic pictures, text messages, and the like can be printed out and introduced into evidence. If you have electronic evidence that cannot be converted into paper format—e.g., video files—please place all such files onto a single thumb drive when possible. You are still responsible to broadcasting the electronic evidence within the Courtroom.

Required service on the Court: Petitions and motions that by law must be served upon the Judge (e.g., writs, appeals, recusal motions), must be either emailed to the Court’s Judicial Assistant or hand delivered to the Court Deputy station on the 1st floor of the South County Courthouse. Additionally, please call the Judicial Assistant to advise her of the service.

Emergencies: True emergencies are rare. Any motion requesting emergency hearing time must explain the emergency, the anticipated time needed, and, where appropriate, good faith efforts to resolve the matter without Court intervention. The attorney or party filing the motion must (1) phone Judge Carroll’s Judicial Assistant about the motion, and (2) hand deliver or email a copy to the Judge Carroll’s Judicial Assistant. Judge Carroll will determine how to handle the request. Emergency hearings may occur during nontraditional work hours.

Settlements: Whenever a case settles, the parties shall immediately provide written notice to Judge Carroll’s Judicial Assistant. Absent compelling circumstances, Judge Carroll will cancel all future hearings and administratively close the case pending final settlement. You still must file a Voluntary Dismissal, submit a proposed Order of Dismissal or Final Judgment, or take some other action to lawfully end the case.

Rehearing or Reconsideration: After you file and serve the motion, please send a copy of any motion for rehearing or reconsideration to Judge Carroll’s Judicial Assistant with a cover letter. Please do not set these motions for hearing. The Court will decide whether to hold a hearing.

Courtroom attire: During the Covid-19 pandemic, Judge Carroll did not enforce normal Court attire for attorneys. Effective June 21, 2021, normal Court attire for attorneys will be requested whether appearing in-person or remotely via Zoom before Judge Carroll.

Family Law Division Procedures

Adoption and Termination of Parental Rights: Chapter 63 must be strictly followed. Prior to scheduling a final hearing, the moving party must submit the following documents to the Court:

  • a written request for hearing time;
  • copies of all documents required by Chapter 63 (after filing the originals with the Clerk); and
  • a fully-completed Court-approved check list (Adoption or TPR) signed by the submitting attorney, which is available on the Family Law page of the Circuit’s website under “Family Division Forms” section.

If all the documentation is complete, the Court will enter an Order Authorizing Final Hearing reflecting the status of the file. Final hearings may only be scheduled after an Order Authorizing Final Hearing has been entered. A copy of the order must be attached to the Notice of Hearing.

Pursuant to Administrative Order 2009-6.12, the judge who entered the Final Judgment in the TPR case must preside over the adoption. When scheduling an adoption in JACS, the adoption case number should appear in the main case number field and the TPR case number should be provided in the “Additional Info” field.

Injunctions for Protection: All hearings relating to injunctions for protection must be scheduled through Judge Carroll’s Judicial Assistant. These generally will be set on Thursday morning. If an attorney represents a Petitioner or Respondent and is aware that a lengthier evidentiary hearing will be requested on the hearing date set forth in the Temporary Injunction, that attorney must contact the Judicial Assistant as soon as practicable to permit the Judicial Assistant to set aside sufficient time for the contested evidentiary hearing.

The Court does not modify injunctions by written stipulation alone. All modifications must be addressed on the digital record at a hearing with the parities present.

Mediation: The Court encourages the early use of mediation. If parties are not mediating cases early, the Court may ultimately require mediation before substantive hearings are conducted.

Twelfth Judicial Circuit Family Mediation Program: If the gross income of the parties meets the statutory program eligibility requirements, the Court may refer the parties to the Family Mediation Program, which provides Florida Supreme Court Family Certified Mediators to help parties resolve open cases. Further information is available on the Family Mediation page. Parties should submit an Order of Referral to Mediation using the approved form on the Court’s website. Both parties must have current financial affidavits on file before submitting the proposed order. If a Supplemental Petition has been filed, Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.285 requires a new financial affidavit, regardless of when the last affidavit was filed. Parties have an on-going duty to supplement their financial affidavits whenever there is a material change to their financial status.

Magistrate: When available, Judge Carroll requires referral to the Family Law Magistrate unless an objection is filed. The scheduling attorney should submit a Family Division Order of Referral to Magistrate and identify the issue or issues referred. No motion is required. The following matters are referred to the Family Law Magistrate: all temporary issues (after completion of mediation); all civil contempt or enforcement issues; discovery-related issues; and motions directed to the pleadings. Judge Carroll generally does not refer these matters to the Family Law Magistrate: cases involving emergency pickup orders following flight or threat of flight with a child from the jurisdiction; domestic violence proceedings including any time-sharing or visitation matters, which arise from the injunction proceeding (the Family Law Magistrate may hear collateral issues of child or spousal support to the extent they do not conflict with provisions of the injunction); petitions to approve termination of pregnancy by a minor; criminal contempt; or emergency matters, unless the Court has determined the issue does not require immediate resolution.

Motion to Vacate the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate: The Court will enter an Order for Transcript giving the party filing the Motion to Vacate a deadline for obtaining a transcript and setting the Motion to Vacate for hearing. Motion to Vacate hearings are nonevidentiary and like an appeal. The hearing may not be set for more than 30 minutes without permission of Judge Carroll.

Child Support, Title IV-D: All Title IV-D proceedings are held before the Honorable Laura M. Hale, Child Support Hearing Officer.

Child Support, Non-Title IV-D: After mediation has been completed, all non- Title IV-D child support proceedings concerning the establishment or modification of child support must be scheduled before the Honorable Matthew K. Peters, South County Family Law Magistrate. A Notice for Trial is not required when child support is the only issue to be resolved.

Parenting Issues: In all cases involving minor children, a parenting course is required. There are time frames within which parents must compete a DCF-approved Parent Education and Family Stabilization course. Attorneys are responsible for ensuring their clients have completed that court and that the Certificate of Completion is filed with the Clerk before a final hearing. Judge Carroll will not proceed with the final hearing unless that Certificate has been filed.

Petition for Relocation: When a Motion for Relocation is filed, counsel must simultaneously provide the Judicial Assistant as well as a written Notice to set the matter for a hearing on the Petition.

Rehearing or Reconsideration: After you file and serve the motion, please send a copy of any motion for rehearing or reconsideration to Judge Carroll’s Judicial Assistant with a cover letter. Please do not set these motions for hearing. The Court will decide whether to hold a hearing.

Special Interrogatories and what to include: The Court allows attorneys to file Special Interrogatories in lieu of an uncontested final hearing for a Dissolution of Marriage. Attorneys must use the Court-approved Special Interrogatories form on the Family Law page of the Circuit’s website. Special Interrogatories are not allowed for Simplified Dissolutions. Please remember that section 61.19, Florida Statutes, provides the Court cannot take action on a proposed Final Judgment until after 20 days has elapsed from the date of the filing of the original petition, unless it is shown that injustice would result from the delay.

Before submitting a proposed Final Judgment in lieu of a hearing, the Special Interrogatories must be e-filed and showing as docketed on the Progress Docket. Once the Special Interrogatories are docketed with a DIN, you may then submit, through the ePortal, the proposed Final Judgment in WORD format along with a PDF cover letter which should include the Special Interrogatories and a copy of the Petitioner’s current and valid Driver’s License issued at least 6 months prior to the filing of the divorce proceeding. If the Petitioner’s Driver’s License is newer than 6 months or is expired, please submit an Affidavit of Corroborating Witness as well.

Trials: The Court does not set date certain trials. Trials will be set for a trial period. After Docket Sounding, Judge Carroll will assign cases to specific days and assign which cases are back-up cases. The attorneys, parties, and witnesses are expected to be available to entire trial period.

Civil Division-Specific Procedures

Magistrate Bailey: The following matters shall be scheduled before Magistrate Bailey, unless either side files a written objection: All motions directed to the pleadings, discovery, service of process, jurisdiction, and arbitration. These motions may be scheduled through the JACS system. In addition to the traditional matters heard by Magistrate Bailey, the parties may utilize Magistrate Bailey for any other matter to which the parties consent, including injunction hearings and summary judgment motions. Injunctions and summary judgment motions must be specially set by stipulation by contacting Magistrate Bailey’s assistant. If a scheduling party has any question regarding whether a certain motion should be scheduled before the Magistrate, the scheduling party should call or email Magistrate Bailey’s assistant.

Local rules: The Court reminds that the Twelfth Judicial Circuit has local rules, which specifically include rules relating to discovery.

Initial CMC: Based on direction from the Chief Justice of Florida requiring judges to actively manage civil case, the Court will set an Initial Case Management Conference approximately 120 days after the initial filing of the lawsuit. Parties and attorneys potentially may be excused from appearing if Judge Carroll has entered a Case Management Order based on the parties’ agreed-to Case Management Report.

Case Management Report: Within 30 days of the last Defendant being served with process, the parties are directed to meet-and-confer and complete the appropriate Case Management Report. The parties shall file the Case Management Report and send Judge Carroll’s Judicial Assistant a copy within 5 days of the parties’ initial meet-and-confer.

Cases “At Issue”/Cases ready for trial to be set: If a trial date is not set at the same time as entry of the Case Management Report, the parties shall select one of two options when the case is at issue. The first option: select a case management date from the Court’s website, download and fill out the Case Management Order, and submit it to Judge Carroll like any proposed Order. The second option: if all parties/counsel agree on the trial date, download and fill out the appropriate Stipulation and Order Setting Case for Jury/Nonjury Trial, have all counsel sign it, and submit it to the Court. The Court anticipates that the parties will select the trial date closest to the proposed trial date contained in the Case Management Order, unless the parties show good cause for a different trial date.

Case Management Conferences to select a trial date: For Case Management Conferences called for the purpose of selecting a trial date, the parties/counsel may be excused from appearing provided that no later than three business days before the CMC each of these items has occurred: (1) all parties/counsel agree on the trial date; (2) they download, fill out, and sign the appropriate Stipulation and Order Setting Case for Jury/Nonjury Trial; (3) they submit it to Judge Carroll for review and approval; and (4) Judge Carroll has signed the proposed Order. If that is not completed, the parties/counsel must appear in Court as ordered. The Court anticipates that the parties will select the trial date closest to the proposed trial date contained in the Case Management Order, unless the parties show good cause for a different trial date.

Pretrial Conference: The Order Setting Case for Jury Trial contains a Pretrial Conference date. Personal appearance is required unless the parties submit a completed, joint Pretrial Conference Order to Judge Carroll at least three (3) business days prior to the Pretrial Conference. Unless specifically requested, the Court typically does not conduct Pretrial Conferences in nonjury cases.

Docket Sounding: All trial counsel and unrepresented parties must appear in person at Docket Sounding. The Order Setting Case for Jury/Nonjury Trial identifies the documents to tender to the Court. After Docket Sounding, the Court will publish a trial lineup.

Motion deadline, including Daubert and in limine motions: All motions, including Daubert motions and in limine motions, must be resolved before Docket Sounding. Unless Judge Carroll allows otherwise, any pending motion will be deemed denied if not addressed by Docket Sounding. Please plan accordingly.

Continuance: All continuance motions must be in writing and signed by the client/party. See Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.460; Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.545(e).

Settlements occurring after Docket Sounding: If the parties settle after Docket Sounding, not only must the parties immediately notify Judge Carroll’s Judicial Assistant, the parties must also immediately contact the attorneys next in order on the trial lineup (even over the weekend). Please be considerate so that Court time is not lost due to settlements when others are needing that same hearing time.

New trial or rehearing motions: Please do not set these motions for hearing. Please send these motions to Judge Carroll’s Judicial Assistant with a cover letter. Judge Carroll will determine whether to grant a hearing.