MANATEE COUNTY CIVIL & CRIMINAL DIVISION 4

Requirements and Information

June 2022

MELISSA GOULD, Manatee County Judge

LORI JAKANSKI, Judicial Assistant

Requirements & Information

Local Rules & Standards of Professionalism

All litigants must follow the Local Rules and the Twelfth Circuit Standards of Professionalism.

Proposed Orders

All proposed orders that are submitted should be accompanied with the corresponding motion. For the most expeditious return, submit your proposed order electronically. If the corresponding motion is filed with the clerk it should still be included when submitting a proposed order. Proposed orders may be sent by U.S. Mail or email. The judicial assistant will return signed orders via email, if no envelopes are provided. The party submitting the proposed order by email will be responsible for providing copies to all parties by U.S. Mail. Submission of proposed orders via U.S. Mail or other parcel service shall include a sufficient number of copies for conforming, plus one for an original signature, as well as stamped, addressed envelopes for all recipients.

Zoom vs. In-Person Hearings

Some proceedings will be by Zoom and others will be in person. Zoom is a platform by which people can appear by telephone or by video. Visit the Zoom website for more information on that platform. Judge Gould’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:

  • All participants must have their audio and video (if applicable) working and know how to mute/unmute and turn their camera on and off before the appearance begins.
  • If Zooming in with audio and video capability, the participant should name themselves using their true, legal first and last name. If calling in for their appearance, the participant should know how to unmute themselves when requested.
  • When in the Zoom courtroom, the participant should remain muted with their video camera off until their case is called.
  • When a case is called, the participant should be in a quiet place with minimal background noise. The participant should not be in a moving vehicle, or in motion in any other way.
  • When a case is called, the participant shall then enable their microphone and unmute themselves in a timely fashion.
  • Any documents that would normally be filed with the clerk shall be filed with the clerk in advance of the hearing. This includes, but is not limited to, plea in absentia forms, acknowledgment and waiver of rights forms, exhibits, etc. Please do not send any documents to the judicial assistant by email or hardcopy that you would normally file with the clerk had your appearance be in person. Please contact the clerk’s office for further instruction on the number of days in advance documents must be filed with the clerk for them to be “seen” by the judge electronically.

Appearing remotely on zoom carries with it the same requirements for professionalism, decorum, and civility to all participants and the court as if physically present. All participants shall be wearing appropriate attire. Business casual is acceptable. As in any courtroom, there is to be no eating, drinking, gum chewing, smoking, or engaging in any activity other than participation in the court appearance.

Criminal Cases

If you wish to appear by Zoom, you may do so without prior authorization from the court. However, attorneys, defendants and witnesses are required to appear in person for jury trials, arraignments or if ordered to appear in person.

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 the first paragraph in the Scheduling Hearings section below relative to scheduling criminal matters

Civil Cases

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.

Please be advised the Court is reserving different days for remote and live court appearances. If you have a remote matter and a live matter, it is unlikely the two can be scheduled on the same day.

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 the first paragraph in the Scheduling Hearings section below relative to scheduling civil matters

Contested Civil Traffic Hearings

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.

Scheduling Hearings

All motions must be filed prior to reserving hearing time.

All civil hearings fifteen minutes or less in length are to be scheduled through the Judicial Automated Calendaring System (JACS). Attorneys are not permitted to schedule back-to-back hearings to acquire a longer block of time. If you require more than fifteen minutes, please call/email the judicial assistant. All criminal hearings are set by contacting the judicial assistant and then filing a notice of hearing with the clerk. The Court has designated Zoom and in person days for Civil and the same will be notated in JACS so please be mindful of the appearance requirement when you schedule hearing time. If you are finding that there is insufficient hearing time available or you have to wait more than two weeks to obtain hearing time, please contact the judicial assistant.

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.

For any hearing, the party wishing the Court to consider legal authority shall submit their authority to the judicial assistant (by hand, mail or email) at least three days prior to the hearing. A copy of the same shall be given to the opposing counsel within the same time frame. All civil non-jury trial or motion exhibits and/or authority in excess of 10 pages, must be provided to the Court via mail and in compliance with the aforementioned three day requirement.

Once a motion is scheduled, subsequent motions may not be added or cross-noticed without prior approval of the original scheduling attorney and then the Judge.

Cancellations should be done as soon as the parties are aware the need for the hearing time no longer exists. If a party is unable to cancel a civil hearing through JACS, please contact the judicial assistant so that she can make the time available for other cases. If a hearing is cancelled, opposing parties and/or counsel must be notified. All criminal hearings must be cancelled with the judicial assistant with a notice of cancellation filed with the clerk.

Requests for emergency or expedited hearing time must be made by contacting the judicial assistant. All motions should include a cover letter that includes the amount of hearing time requested. 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.

If an interpreter is needed, you must arrange for the interpreter. The Twelfth Judicial Circuit provides interpreters for all court events, if requested properly in advance. Please visit the court interpreters page, for information on scheduling an interpreter.

Motions to suppress shall be filed and heard prior to the plea cut-off date referenced below, unless opportunity did not exist, or the defendant was not aware of the grounds for the motion. Again, criminal motions should be scheduled through the judicial assistant and lengthier motions will be specially set with a time certain.

Pretrial Conferences

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. The form should NOT be sent to the judicial assistant but rather filed with the Clerk. 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 Judge Gould’s section of the criminal and civil division pages and in the courtroom.

The Court will accept pleas at pretrial conference.

Docket Sounding

Defendants must appear at docket sounding (either in person or on Zoom).

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.

Pleas

The plea cut-off date for all cases set on a trial docket will be on Friday before the trial period. Starting in January of 2022, the plea cut-off will be 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.

Evictions

Once the Clerk has entered the default, the final judgment of possession may be e-mailed 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.

Small Claims

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.