Honorable Stephen M. Walker

Circuit Court Judge

Contact Information

Judicial Service

  • Circuit Court Bench, January 2015

Education

  • JD, University of Florida College of Law, 1990
  • BS, Stetson University, 1987
  • Florida Bar Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Trial Law, August 2003-2023 (presently inactive status)
Judicial Assistant
Dara Baranski
Email
Email the Judicial Assistant; do not send proposed orders.
Phone
(941) 861–7935
Chamber
Judge Lynn N. Silvertooth Judicial Center
Physical Address
2002 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota, FL 34237
Mailing Address
P.O. Box 48927, Sarasota, FL 34230
Office Hours
8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed for lunch Noon-1 p.m.
Courtroom
Proceedings are held in Courtroom 7C
Division Email
Email proposed orders to the Division A email account only if instructed by the Court. All other orders to be submitted via the ePortal. Please include the case number in the subject line of all emails. Please do not copy the judicial assistant.
Notice to the public: The Code of Judicial Conduct governing behavior by judges forbids the Judges of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit to discuss pending cases with the public. Please do not call or email the Court expecting to speak with a Judge about any case. The Court is only allowed to consider arguments made in the courtroom and in documents properly filed by actual parties in the case as authorized by law and the Rules of Court. The Court cannot ethically read or consider any other opinions or arguments about the case. Communications that do not meet these legal requirements cannot be forwarded to the Judges.

Requirements & Information

Standards of Professionalism

Judge Stephen M. Walker expects all attorneys who appear to know and adhere to the Twelfth Judicial Circuit’s Standards of Professionalism, also available on the websites of the Manatee County Bar Association and the Sarasota County Bar Association.

A. Remote Appearance

All of Judge Walker’s Civil and Foreclosure Motion Hearings can be set for Zoom. Judge Walker “hosts” the video/telephone conferences so there is no need to set up your own. Please visit the Public Court Hearings on Zoom page for Zoom log on credentials and procedures, including requirements for noticing a Zoom hearing and Zoom etiquette.

Standing Zoom Credentials: Download the Zoom app on your chosen device or launch the Zoom app and click “Join”.
Meeting ID is 465 693 0098;
Passcode is 568290.
Telephone/audio only: 1-786-635-1003.

Please remember, the remote Courtroom is still a Public Courtroom. The Court expects that you attend the Remote hearing with your camera on and that you conduct yourself professionally.

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 Motion or Evidentiary Hearing, please alert the Judicial Assistant prior to the day of the hearing so that the proper court personnel are present.

The following hearings shall always be conducted In-Person unless otherwise ordered by the Court:

  • Jury Trials
  • Non-Jury Trials
  • Foreclosure Trials
  • Docket Sounding, Pretrial Conferences, and/or Case Management Conferences: Counsel/Parties may appear in person or via Zoom using Judge Walker’s Standing Zoom information.

B. Hearing Procedures

Pro Se Parties

Pro se parties must email a copy of the motion(s) to the Judicial Assistant or reference the DIN of the motion(s) they want hearing time for. The Judicial Assistant will provide hearing options for the parties to coordinate. Please be sure to file any items you would like the court to consider into the court file.

Attorneys

You must schedule hearings one hour or less in duration directly through the JACS. Please do not combine timeslots to create a larger time slot as they are subject for cancellation. Please contact the Court’s Judicial Assistant to schedule hearings requiring more than one hour. Please note, Judge Walker’s Trial Calendar has doubled since last year. Parties shall utilize the Magistrate for any matters that are acceptable for the Magistrate to hear. Please review the Civil Magistrate section before scheduling on JACS.

Civil Magistrate Hearings

Please read before scheduling motion hearings with the JudgeThe following matters shall be scheduled before Magistrate Ellis, unless either side files a written objection: All motions directed to the pleadings, discovery, and service of process, jurisdiction, and arbitration. These motions may be scheduled through the JACS system under Magistrate Ellis, do not select Judge Walker. Please submit an Order of Referral found in the Division Documents & Preferred Forms section. In addition to the traditional matters heard by Magistrate Ellis, the parties may utilize Magistrate Ellis for any other matter to which the parties consent, including Injunction Hearings and Summary Judgment Motions. Injunctions must be specially set by stipulation by contacting Magistrate Ellis' assistant. If a scheduling party has any question about whether a certain motion should be scheduled before the Magistrate, the scheduling party should email Magistrate Ellis’ assistant or call (941) 861–4866.

The 12th Circuit provides the services of the Magistrate to resolve matters directed to the pleadings and discovery in order to provide expedient access to the Court and use judicial resources as efficiently and effectively as possible. In 2021, the civil division was reduced to two judges as well as the addition of extra trial periods to attempt to address the growing backlog of trials that were not tried due to COVID-19. For this reason, the civil judges have less motion hearing time available. Using the Magistrate for these motions allows parties to obtain hearing time sooner and permits the civil judge’s hearing time to remain available for summary judgment motions, evidentiary hearings, and trials. If either party has a good faith objection to the Magistrate, the party may file an objection and then schedule the hearing before the judge. 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, the motion should be set in front of the magistrate.

Discovery-related motions:
Compel or Contempt re Discovery Order (other than ex parte), Extend Time, Objections to Interrogatories, Objections to Production, Protective Order, Quash, Sanctions (re Discovery Matters), and any additional discovery-related motion not listed.
Motions directed to pleadings
Add/Drop Parties, Amend, Default, Default Final Judgment, Dismiss, Intervene, Judgment on Pleadings, More Definite Statement, Strike, and other motion directed to the pleadings not listed.
Miscellaneous motions:
Abate, Compel Arbitration, Confirm Arbitration, Compel Mediation, Discharge, Lis Pendens, Quash Service, Sever, Transfer Jurisdiction/Venue, Vacate/Set Aside (On Non-Trial Related Issues), Withdrawal of Counsel.
If the hearing is incorrectly set with the court without prior approval or an objection to the Magistrate in the court file, it will be cancelled.

Uniform Motion Calendar (UMC Hearings)

The Court conducts UMC hearings most Wednesday’s for both Civil and Foreclosure starting at 8:30 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. Once you have filed the notice of hearing for the UMC, please also email a copy of to the Judicial Assistant so that the court is aware of the pending motions to be heard. If your hearing does not comply with the UMC requirements, it may not be heard and will be asked to be set on JACS.

Foreclosure Matters

Visit the Foreclosure Information page for specific county-by-county information.

Residential Foreclosure Matters

All residential foreclosure cases must be set on the foreclosure docket and not the civil motion docket. If it is incorrectly set on a civil motion docket, it will be cancelled.

Foreclosure UMC

Foreclosure UMC motions must be unopposed, non-evidentiary and five (5) minutes or less in length. UMC motions must be unopposed, non-evidentiary and five (5) minutes or less in length. Please do not schedule UMC hearings through JACS. Once you have filed the notice of hearing for the UMC, please also email a copy of to the Judicial Assistant so that the court is aware of the pending motions to be heard. If your hearing does not comply with the UMC requirements, it may not be heard and will be asked to be set on JACS. Please also visit the Foreclosure Information page.

Commercial and Real Property Foreclosures

All commercial or real property foreclosures (everything except residential foreclosures) must be set before the assigned judge using the assigned Judge’s Civil JACS calendar.

Instructions for Specific Motions/Hearings

Summary Judgment Motions

Pursuant to AO 2021-19.1, the following procedures are required for summary judgment motions:

Moving Party Requirements:

Each motion for summary judgment must include a specifically captioned section titled, “Statement of Material Facts.” The Statement of Material Facts may be filed as a separate document within 1 business day after filing the summary judgment motion to permit pinpoint citations. The Statement of Material facts must list each material fact alleged not to be disputed in separate, numbered paragraphs. Each fact must be supported by a pinpoint citation to a specific part of the record relied upon to support that fact. The pinpoint citation must also include the Document Identification Number (DIN) assigned by the Clerk on the progress docket; A general citation without a pinpoint is not permitted and may result in the judge concluding the factual assertion is not properly supported. The source document supporting each fact referenced in the Statement of Material Facts must be filed with the Clerk and displayed on the progress docket. Source documents already displayed on the progress docket do not need to be refiled. If a deposition transcript is referenced, the complete, full-sized transcript must be filed, including exhibits. Placing four pages of a deposition transcript on a single page is not permitted. When preparing the Statement of Material Facts, the moving party must reference only the material facts necessary for the Court to determine the issues presented in the motion for summary judgment. The Statement of Material Facts shall not include an attorney’s affidavit. Legal argument shall not be included in the Statement of Material Facts. Failure to submit a Statement of Material Facts at the time of filing the summary judgment motion constitutes grounds for denial of the motion.

Nonmoving Party Requirements:

The nonmoving party must file a response to the Statement of Material Facts. Each response in opposition to a motion for summary judgment must include a specifically captioned section titled “Response to Statement of Material Facts.” The nonmoving party’s response must mirror the Statement of Material Facts by admitting and/or denying each of the moving party’s assertions of fact in matching numbered paragraphs. The nonmovant may include additional facts; however, the nonmovant must still mirror the movant’s presentation of facts. Each denial of a fact must set forth a pinpoint citation to the record where the fact is disputed in the same form as above, including the Document Identification Number (DIN) assigned by the Clerk on the progress docket. A general citation without a pinpoint is not permitted and may result in the Court concluding the moving party’s factual assertion is undisputed. Each source document referenced in the Response to Statement of Material Facts must be filed with the Clerk and referenced on the progress docket. Source documents already displayed on the progress docket do not need to be refiled. If a deposition transcript is referenced, the complete, full-sized transcript must be filed, including exhibits Placing four pages of a deposition transcript on a single page is not permitted. The nonmoving party’s response must correspond with the paragraph scheme used in the Statement of Material Facts. The Court may deem admitted any fact in the Statement of Material Facts that the nonmoving party does not specifically controvert, provided that the moving party’s statement is supported by evidence in the record. Additional facts which the nonmoving party contends are material shall be numbered and placed at the end of the nonmoving party’s response and must include pinpoint citations to the record to establish a fact.

Foreclosure motions for Final Summary Judgment are to be set on the foreclosure docket and not the civil motion docket.

Motions for Attorney’s Fees/Costs

The Court allows a Motion for Attorney’s Fees and Costs to proceed on the issue of entitlement only. Following the hearing and if entitlement is found, this Court usually requires mediation as to the issue of amount. If mediation is unsuccessful and counsel are unable to stipulate and submit an agreed Order to the Court, the Movant may proceed to schedule a second hearing as to amount of fees/costs to be awarded. Please refer to the guidelines for conducting and evidentiary hearing.

Motions for Rehearing, Reconsideration, or New Trial

Do Not Set for Hearing. All Motions for Rehearing, Reconsideration, or for New Trial should be submitted directly to the Judge’s office along with a cover letter. The judge will first review the motion to determine whether a hearing is required.

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 Court’s system will show you as attorney of record. No hearing is needed if 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. This matter may be set with the Magistrate.

Case Management Conference (CMC)

Other than the initial case management, the Court conducts two general types of CMCs: (1) to select a trial date; and (2) when a case needs more active management. Any party may request a CMC. The Court strongly encourages the early use of CMC especially in complex cases, multiple party litigation, or any case that might benefit from Court intervention. Unless excused by the Court in advance, all CMCs are mandatory. If you are scheduling a CMC hearing on the civil docket you must use a 15-minute time slot. If there are no 15-minute time slots available, then set on the CMC docket. The CMC dates are located under the trial dates on the civil division page.

Lack of Prosecution Hearings

Pursuant to Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.420(2) (e), when there has been no activity for a period of ten (10) months by filing of pleadings, Order of Court, or otherwise, and no stay entered, a case may be placed on a “Lack of Prosecution Docket.” Motion and Notice of the hearing will be sent to parties of record at the last known address from the Court file. If no record activity occurs within 60 days of the Notice, the Court shall dismiss the action unless a party shows good cause in writing at least five (5) working days before the hearing on why the action should remain pending. If good cause is shown, the hearing will be treated as a Case Management Conference. Parties may be excused from this hearing by submitting a stipulated Order setting the case for trial at least three (3) business days prior to the hearing. Do not contact the Judicial Assistant to request excusal from the hearing if no trial Order has been submitted three (3) business days prior or to request a telephonic appearance.

Hearings Scheduled Unilaterally

The Court expects parties to cooperate with each other in an effort to resolve the issues and follow the Standards of Professionalism. If parties are unable to agree on a hearing date, the movant shall schedule a fifteen (15) minute status conference via JACS to discuss the scheduling issues with the Judge.

Noticing Hearings

Use of Document Identification Number [DIN]: The Clerk’s Office progress docket identifies a unique, sequential Document Identification Number [DIN] for each docket entry. Please include the DIN on the hearing notice and when referencing any filing. The DIN is typically between 1 to 4 numbers and is to the left of the description in the electronic court file. Some programs also refer to this number as DOC. The Notice of Hearing must contain the correct Zoom credentials and specific language which can be found on Judge Walker’s Zoom page or if In Person, please include Courtroom 7C.

Cross Notices/Add-On Hearings

Once a motion is scheduled via JACS or with the Judicial Assistant, subsequent motions shall not be “cross noticed”, absent prior approval of opposing counsel and the Court.

Cancelling Hearings

You must cancel hearings using JACS. When the Court’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 email or call the Judicial Assistant to cancel a hearing. You must immediately send notice of cancellation to all parties including the Judicial Assistant and file into the court file.

Settlements

As soon as a case settles, the parties shall immediately provide written notice to the Court’s Judicial Assistant. Absent compelling circumstances, the Court 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.

C. Communications with the Court

Judge Walker must apply the same rules to all parties, regardless of whether you have an attorney or you represent yourself. Your opportunity to speak with Judge Walker about your case is when you are in the courtroom only. The Judicial Assistant is more than happy to help you schedule a hearing; however, she is not able to help you with your case, give legal advice or send information to other parties in the case. For details about your case, you may visit the Sarasota County Clerk’s website.

Ex-parte

The Court will not consider ex-parte communication, therefore all communication sent to the Court by email must be copied to the opposing parties before the matter will be considered. Counsel should not use email for general correspondence or copy the Judicial Assistant any extraneous documentation or email correspondence between counsels. The Court will not consider emails as motions. All pleadings must be filed into the electronic court file.

D. Submission of Orders

Effective May 2, 2022, unless good cause is shown, proposed orders are required to be submitted electronically through the statewide Portal whenever feasible. See AO: 2022-1.2. Please refer to the Sarasota Clerk's website for information on how to use the Florida Courts e-Filing Portal.

Proposed Orders submitted through the “Proposed Documents” feature of the Portal are electronically transmitted to Judge Walker. Judge Walker’s name is not specifically listed, please choose “Assigned Judge” and it will go to his proposed order queue. The proposed order must be submitted electronically through the Portal in Word (.docx) format. If not submitted in Word format, it will be rejected. Proposed orders should conclude with the following language: “Done and Ordered in Sarasota, Sarasota County, Florida” and Please include a signature line for the Judge’s signature block and a service list, if needed. Do not include a date; the date is included with the judge’s electronic signature. Please leave adequate room in the document for the judge’s electronic signature. Cover letters must be submitted through the Portal in PDF/A format. All proposed orders submitted through the Portal to Judges and Magistrates in Sarasota County require a cover letter. If a cover letter is not included, it will be rejected. Any ancillary documents related to the proposed order (copy of the motion, case law, legal memorandums, etc.) may be attached to the cover letter in PDF/A format. Motions and proposed orders must be submitted through the Portal as separate documents. Combined motion/proposed orders in the same document are not permitted. Parties shall only submit a proposed order when all parties agree to the form. If an order is submitted via the portal, emailed courtesy copies are not needed.

Please do not Email “Proposed Orders” unless instructed to by the Court. Do not mail or email orders if they have been submitted via the portal as it can result in duplicate orders or errors. If instructed to email, please send in Word format to Division A only. If the Proposed Order is agreed upon, please include the email string to show the order was agreed. If it is not an agreed Order, please note the points of disagreement or advise the Court that more than one Order is being submitted.

E. Courtesy Copies

Please do not email “courtesy copies” of anything previously filed into the electronic court file. Judge Walker now views the court file electronically and copies are no longer needed. Please continue to submit all case law and any supporting documents that are not filed in the court file at least 48 hours prior to the Judicial Assistant. When sending case law and supporting documents, please state in your email or letter which party you represent. For voluminous submissions, the Court appreciates an index or searchable file.

F. Emergency & Other Urgent Matters

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 the Court’s Judicial Assistant about the motion, and (2) email or hand deliver a copy to the Court’s Judicial Assistant. The Court will determine how to handle the request.

Motions for Temporary Injunctions

Do not set for hearing. All motions for temporary injunctions must be emailed to the Judicial Assistant promptly upon filing. The Court will likely set a status conference to determine the date and length of the hearing.

G. Exhibits for Evidentiary Proceedings

Please confer with opposing counsel prior to setting the hearing to appropriately estimate the length of hearing. Please submit hard copies of exhibits to the Court properly marked and indexed. If it is a remote hearing, please submit the evidence five days prior to the hearing/trial. If the Hearing is In Person, you may bring the exhibits the morning of the hearing to the courtroom. If hard copies were sent, please email the Judicial Assistant prior to the hearing confirming receipt. If the exhibits are under 25 pages, they may be emailed to the Judicial Assistant to print. Please note that the Court is unable to access dropbox or links for exhibits.

Jury/Non Jury Trial Exhibits

All Jury and Non Jury trials require hard copies of exhibits to be supplied to the court on or before the morning of trial. Exhibits must be properly indexed and identified. Please note, Plaintiffs are typically numbers and Defendants are typically letters.

Zoom Witness Exhibits

Please provide copies of all exhibits to Zoom witnesses prior to the hearing or trial.

H. Pretrial Procedures & Conferences

Pretrial Conferences

The Order Setting Case for Jury Trial contains a Pretrial Conference date. If the parties submit a completed, joint Pretrial Conference Order to the Court at least three (3) business days prior to the Pretrial Conference, the parties will be excused from the Pretrial Conference. Otherwise, personal appearance is required. Unless requested, the Court does not conduct Pretrial Conferences in non-jury cases. You may attend the Pretrial Conference in person or via Zoom.

Docket Sounding

All trial counsel and unrepresented parties must appear at Docket Sounding. The Order Setting Case for Jury/Nonjury Trial identifies the documents to tender to the Court. The court prefers that counsel appear via Zoom for Docket Sounding, but you may attend in person if you wish.

Daubert/Frye and Limine Motions

All motions, including Daubert/Frye Motions and in Limine Motions, must be resolved before Docket Sounding. Please plan accordingly.

I. Setting Case for Trial

The Court is following the differentiated case management protocol listed below for all filed cases. Once the agreed upon CMR is filed and accepted, a trial order will be issued by the court. All continuances or changes to the trial must be set for hearing. You cannot simply file a new Case Management report.

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 Division page. The CMR must be filed in the Court file. 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 email the Civil Case Manager. Please do not send these to the judge through the ePortal.

Initial Case Management Hearings

If you are not excused by Court order, you are required to attend the Initial Case Management Conference. This applies even if all the parties are not served. First, review the electronic court file for your case for an order excusing you. If you have not received an order or an email from the Case Management team excusing you, you must attend. Please do not call the judicial assistant to request excusal from the initial case management.

Technology Services

All Technology service requests must be made prior to trial. If presentation equipment or assistance is needed, please review the technology services page for more information. It is the Attorney’s responsibility to obtain all requests or equipment needed for trial.

Continuances

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). You must set all Trial Continuances for a hearing.

Backup Judges

Civil Division A and C Judges backup each other to increase availability for trials. Please notify the Court no later than Docket Sounding if a recusal issue would exist with Division C.

Settlements Occurring After Docket Sounding

If the parties settle after Docket Sounding, not only must the parties notify the Court’s Judicial Assistant, but the parties must also immediately contact the attorneys next in order on the trial lineup (even over the weekend).

J. Preferred Division Forms

Downloadable Proposed Orders

The court utilizes several standard orders, please review the Civil Division page before submitting proposed orders. Please check this page often as the Court adds new orders or modifies existing proposed orders.

Noproposed Orders may be e-Filed in the court file except for the following specific Order: Circuit Civil: Uniform Final Judgment of Foreclosure (pursuant to AO 2012-3.2 and any subsequent administrative Orders regarding foreclosures).

All Trial Calendar dates and times as well UMC dates can also be found on the Sarasota County tab on the Civil Division page.

K. Other Division Procedures

Failure to Respond to Discovery

If after good faith efforts a party still has not responded at all to a pending, and overdue, discovery request, the requesting party may submit a proposed Order through the Portal that provides within 10 days that the specific discovery occur and a response be filed, waives all objections as untimely except those based on privacy, legal privilege, or work-product protections, and warns the failure to abide by the Order may result in further sanctions, including, without limitation, dismissing the case, striking pleadings, or other appropriate sanctions.

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 made with less than 5 business days’ notice may not be able to be accommodated.

Reassignment of Civil Trust Litigation Matters

With the consent of the Chief Judge of this Circuit, all pre-trial matters and adversary proceedings in Civil Trust Litigation or other matters that either originated in the Probate/Guardianship division or are substantially related to Probate and Guardianship matters requiring resolution by trial, shall be reassigned to the presiding Probate/Guardianship Division Judge, with the exception of those motions that are required to be heard by the Civil Magistrate pursuant to these requirements and consistent with existing Administrative Orders.

ADA Notice

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 Clerk of Court’s Jury Office, P.O. Box 3079, Sarasota, FL 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. Additional ADA information can be found on the Americans with Disabilities Act page.