Requirements and Information
All litigants must follow the Local Rules and the Twelfth Circuit Standards of Professionalism.
All proposed orders that are submitted should be accompanied with the corresponding motion. If the corresponding motion is filed with the Clerk, it should still be included when submitting a proposed order. Proposed orders should be sent by U.S. Mail. The judicial assistant will return signed orders and the party submitting the proposed order will be responsible for providing copies to all parties via U.S. Mail if no conforming copies and envelopes are provided.
Some proceedings will be by Zoom and others will be in person as explained below. Zoom is a platform by which people can appear by telephone or by video. Visit the Zoom website for more information about that platform. Judge Steele's Zoom information is available on her Zoom Information page. If after reviewing these guidelines, you are unsure about whether a hearing can occur by Zoom or whether you are supposed to appear in person, please contact the judicial assistant.
Please note that those individuals appearing live will be heard prior to those appearing by Zoom. Additionally, even if a hearing is noticed by Zoom, the Court will permit litigants and attorneys to appear live and the hearing will go forward even if one or more litigants are on Zoom and one or more are in the courtroom. If a hearing is noticed as in person, litigants and attorneys must appear in person absent an order authorizing him/her to appear by Zoom.
If using Zoom, please adhere to the following rules in place for all Manatee County Court Judges:
Prior to scheduling any evidentiary hearing or hearing in excess of fifteen minutes on Zoom, the moving party shall ensure the opposing party is agreeable to the Zoom appearance and that the request is otherwise in compliance with Rule 2.530 of the Florida Rules of General Practice and Judicial Administration. A filed stipulation is not required on this issue. If the remote appearance is not agreed to, the party seeking to present Zoom testimony shall move for permission to present testimony and set forth good cause as to why the testimony should be allowed in this form no less than two business days prior to the scheduled hearing.
If a defendant is pleading by Zoom, please submit and e-file the plea form prior to the plea. If the charge to which the defendant is entering a plea is one that requires fingerprints (ex. DWLS, Battery, Violation of an Injunction, Petit Theft and DUI) and the defendant is unable to obtain those fingerprints prior to the plea then an additional condition of probation will be for the defendant to procure fingerprints and file them with the Clerk of Court. If the defendant is not entering a plea to regular probation, the Court will not accept the plea via Zoom or in absentia if fingerprints are required. Should a plea via Zoom occur, the State shall, if applicable, ensure that the victim has notice of the hearing and the ability to participate in the hearing.
Please see subsection (1) below relative to scheduling criminal matters.
Trials/Final Hearings and evictions shall take place live in the courtroom. The notice shall include language that the hearing is taking place live in the courtroom and not by remote means. Requests to appear by Zoom can be made in advance of the hearing and will be granted upon the Court’s finding of good cause and if such request is otherwise in compliance with Rule 2.530 of the Florida Rules of General Practice and Judicial Administration. Please make the request at least 5 business days in advance of the scheduled hearing.
Evidentiary hearings including hearings on claims of exemptions may be noticed as a Zoom hearing without prior authorization from the Court. The notice of hearing must include Meeting ID, Password and information about how to access and utilize Zoom. Attorneys are responsible for preparing the notice unless the hearing is set by the Court.
Please see subsection (1) below relative to scheduling civil matters.
These hearings are live and in person. Requests to appear by Zoom can be made in advance of the hearing and will be granted upon the Court’s finding of good cause and if such request is otherwise in compliance with Rule 2.530 of the Florida Rules of General Practice and Judicial Administration. Please make the request at least 5 business days in advance of the scheduled hearing. Mandatory traffic hearings litigants can appear on Zoom.
Criminal pretrial conferences can be continued twice without the need for defense counsel to appear, provided the defense attorney has filed the pretrial conference continuance request form prior to the scheduled pretrial conference. If you have continued the case twice before, you cannot continue it a third time without the written approval of the assistant state attorney and the defendant. Forms are available on Judge Steele’s section of the criminal and civil division pages and in the courtroom.
The Court will accept pleas at pretrial conference.
Defendants must appear at docket sounding.
No motions of any kind, 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, the number of witnesses to be called and any witness scheduling conflicts.
Cases set on the Court’s trial docket should be anticipated to proceed to trial. Please do not select a docket sounding date with the anticipation that subpoenas will not be sent out by the State.
The plea cut-off date for all cases set on a trial docket will be on the Thursday before the trial period. Thereafter all pleas will be open pleas to the court unless there has been a significant change with the case.
Once the Clerk has entered the default, the final judgment of possession may be emailed to the judicial assistant. Hard copies are not necessary. If an answer is filed, the Court will review the response and determine whether a hearing is warranted. If a hearing is required, the judicial assistant will schedule the hearing and notify all parties.
All parties are required to appear at the Pretrial Conference unless excused by the Court. Failure to appear after proper notice may result in a default judgment or dismissal of the case. Requests to continue the Pretrial Conference must be in writing and filed with the Clerk’s Office, with a copy to the judicial assistant and all parties. Parties may agree in advance of the Pretrial Conference, to cancel the same and go straight to mediation. Please submit the stipulation and proposed order no less than two business days before the Pretrial Conference. All parties must attend mediation before a trial date may be set.