Americans with Disabilities Act

Please request accommodation within two working days of receipt of a notice to appear at a court proceeding. Some accommodations, such as sign language interpreters and real-time reporting, require sufficient time to schedule. Please be prepared to explain the nature of your disability and suggest an auxiliary aid or service that will enable you to effectively participate in the court program or service.

Examples are:

  • Assistive listening devices
  • Sign language interpreters
  • Oral interpreters
  • Providing materials in large print, braille, diskette, or audio tapes
  • Reader services
  • Real-time transcription services

Examples are:

  • Transportation to the courthouse
  • Legal counsel or advice
  • Personal devices such as wheelchairs or hearing aids
  • Personal services such as medical or attendant care
  • Readers for personal use or study

The U.S. Department of Justice has an Information Line to call for additional information:

  • 1-800-514-0301 (voice)
  • 1-800-514-0383 (TDD

Child Support

If you have tried but failed to get an attorney’s help, contact the Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service to submit a request online or call 800-342-8011. For a $25 fee you can obtain a brief consultation with a local lawyer who practices family law. At that time you can ask questions, talk about what papers you need to file, and get advice about how to proceed on your own should you choose to do so.

U.S. mail is the approved way lawyers and the courts are required to inform you of case activity. Letters, court documents and notice of subsequent hearings regarding your child support obligation will be mailed to the address in your order or to the last address you provided the court and DOR. If mail is returned undelivered, by default and by law you might be bound to court action which you may not know about, increasing your support obligation or even leading to a erroneous arrest.

The clerk in the county where your case is located has a Family Law Case History of payments. You may request a copy from the clerk and check it against your cancelled checks or payment receipts. You are responsible for keeping accurate records.


Changes in Court during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Courts are open, but many hearings are taking place by video or phone. You can look up information about your specific judge’s procedures on the courts' Divisions webpage.

The courts are operating but the processes have been changed so you can take care of your court business by phone or email. Do not go to the courthouse in person unless it is your only option.

Even if you have an in-person court hearing, you may not enter a court building if you:

  • Have flu-like symptoms, or
  • have been directed to quarantine, isolate or self-monitor at home for COVID-19 by a medical provider, or
  • have been diagnosed with or have had close contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19.

Jury service has resumed. If you receive a summons, please follow the directions for reporting. If you have questions, please call the clerk of court in your county.

Yes, courts are holding hearings every day. Almost all hearings will continue to be held by phone or video conference unless the court tells the parties to attend in person.

For most people, no.

  • In some cases, a judge may allow or request that a person in a protective order case attend in person.
  • Everyone else, including parties, witnesses, and lawyers, must attend by phone or video conference.

Please don't bring anyone with you to court because they might not be able to come in with you due to social-distancing guidelines.

If there is an in-person hearing, the judge or bailiff will direct everyone where to sit to make sure people are far enough apart to follow social-distancing guidelines.

Please visit our Public Court Hearings page and select your judge* from the list. The “Meetings” links will take you to lists showing the judge’s morning and afternoon sessions. Find your session and follow the instructions.

To participate by phone, you need to:

  • Call the “Audio only” phone number listed for that session, enter the “Meeting ID” then the “Password”

To participate by video, you need to:

  • Click on the session’s “Join Now” button,
  • if prompted, download the Zoom software, and
  • enter the “Password” in the pop-up window.

Whether you’re participating by phone or video, please be sure to mute your microphone while you wait for the judge to begin your hearing.

Do not file a motion to appear by telephone. You can just connect to the conference line and use the associated access code.

*Not all judges are using Zoom video conferencing. Please refer to your Notice of Hearing to verify which method you will use to participate in your specific hearing.

If you’re having trouble contacting your judge’s office, or don’t know who to call to help with your court-related customer service questions, you can call Court Administration. We have staff available daily between 8:30 a.m.- 5 p.m.:

  • Court Administration, DeSoto County: (863) 993-4644
  • Court Administration, Manatee County: (941) 749-3655
  • Court Administration, Sarasota County: (941) 861-7800

If you need to leave a voicemail message for us, please include:

  • your name,
  • court location where your case is filed,
  • phone number,
  • your question,
  • your case number if you have one, and
  • a good time to reach you.

If you have an interest in a criminal court case, you can register for eNotify, a service that provides users with courtesy text and email reminders about upcoming court events. For more information, visit enotify.flcourts.org. NOTE: This service is available only for criminal cases.


Foreclosures

The clerk of court assigns foreclosure actions for more than $30,000 to the Circuit Civil Divisions A and C (Sarasota) and B and D (Manatee). Actions for less than $30,000 are assigned to County Court.

Judges are not allowed to talk directly with litigants, witnesses, friends, or family members of litigants about a pending case or a disputed matter that might lead to litigation. Ethical rules require judges to have both sides of a dispute present, with their lawyers, before he or she is permitted to discuss a matter in litigation or a matter which might be litigated.

Judicial assistants are not lawyers and cannot give legal advice. By law they cannot recommend lawyers or advise a person how to handle a case. They do not have the authority to approve requests to continue a matter or to excuse a court appearance, only a judge can do that. The claim that the “Judicial assistant told me to do it” is not an acceptable defense.

You have the right to represent yourself. However, foreclosure law is complex. It is strongly recommended that you not attempt to do this without an attorney. You may have defenses to foreclosure that are unrecognizable by untrained persons. Being uninformed about civil procedure and the law may cause you to lose a case that you could otherwise win. Before deciding to be your own lawyer, it would be wise to consult with a member of The Florida Bar. Attorneys don’t have to be hired to defend the entire case. Some may agree to be hired for a limited purpose. This can greatly reduce the cost and allow an unrepresented party to have an attorney’s help at critical stages of the case. For example, a defendant may need the attorney just to file and argue a motion to dismiss, or a summary judgment, or to help them prepare for trial.

If you have no lawyer, you may find these websites helpful:

  1. Contact legal aid services to see if you qualify for free legal advice:
    • Legal Aid of Manasota  
      Sarasota Office - 1900 Main St., Suite 302, Sarasota, FL 34236 - (941) 366-0038
      Venice Office - 7810 South Tamiami Trail, Suite A6, Venice, FL 34293 - (941) 492-4631
    • Gulfcoast Legal Services
      ​1750 17th St., Bldg. 1, Sarasota, FL 34236 - (941) 366-1746
  2. Many local attorneys advertise online and in the phone book. The local bar associations also have useful resources: Link to Sarasota County Bar Association; Link to Manatee County Bar Association

The most common mistake made by persons who do not hire an attorney is the failure to pay attention to deadlines. The rules of civil procedure govern foreclosure cases and they set deadlines for a defending party to take action. Self-represented persons must become familiar with the procedural rules and pay careful attention to orders signed by the judge.

When deadlines are missed, sometimes it is possible for the defendant to ask the judge to excuse the oversight. But this is risky and depends on why the deadline was missed, and the judge may not accept the excuse. The sooner the request is made after a date is missed, the more likely it is that the judge may allow the error to be corrected. In any event, for the deadline to be excused, a valid legal reason for missing the deadline is required.

  • Notice of Hearing
  • Motion
  • Supporting document copies (a copy of your motion or other filed pleadings that will be addressed at the hearing)
  • Case law supporting your position

The court is under no obligation to provide court reporters in civil cases even where the litigants are indigent. Litigants that want their proceedings recorded are responsible for hiring a court reporter to attend hearings or trials.

No. On February 9, 2009, the 12th Circuit adopted Administrative Order 2009-2.1 in re: Emergency Order Suspending Telephone Hearings in Foreclosure Cases in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. However, during the COVID-19 health emergency, some hearings are conducted by video or phone. Check your notice of hearing to see how the court will proceed with your case.


General Questions

  • Our Court Programs webpage provides links to individual departments within Court Administration.
  • Find judicial requirements and office information on judges and magistrates on our Judges/Magistrate webpage.

Yes, but all letters, email or other written communications sent to a judge should be filed with the clerk and provided to the attorneys or litigants, and could become public record. All written material sent to the judge is screened by the judicial assistant. The judge may never see it, depending on the content and rules established by the judge. Always include the case number or written communications to a judge with a return address & and phone number. Case numbers are available from the clerk of court.

Judges are not allowed to talk directly with litigants, witnesses, friends, or family members of litigants about a pending case or a disputed matter that might lead to litigation. Ethical rules require judges to have both sides of a dispute present, with their lawyers, before he or she is permitted to discuss a matter in litigation or a matter which might be litigated.

Judicial assistants are not lawyers and cannot give legal advice. By law they cannot recommend lawyers or advise a person on how to handle a case. They do not have the authority to approve requests to continue a matter or to excuse a court appearance, only a judge can do that. The claim that the “judicial assistant told me to do it” is not an acceptable defense.

Dockets that change frequently (daily) are not posted due to the numerous changes that take place. Other dockets with planned trials/hearings/etc. are posted and periodically updated by the judicial assistant for that specific judge.

Administrative orders are provided on the web in PDF format and may be printed from the web.

Most publications are in PDF format and can be printed from the web. If not, contact the webmaster (link on most pages) and he/she will follow up on your request.

The courthouse is open to the public from 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday–Friday (later if there is a trial in session). Departments may have different operating hours so please verify these hours by visiting the Court Programs webpage to find an overview of that particular department.


Hearings

  • Notice of Hearing
  • Motion
  • Supporting document copies
  • Proposed order
  • Case law supporting your position

Contact the clerk’s office in DeSoto County (863) 993-4876, in Manatee County (941) 749-1800 or in Sarasota County (941) 861-7400.

All judges rotate divisions every one to two years and do not normally keep cases from one division when they move to another. On occasion a judge may be required to swap cases with another judge because of ethical considerations, or because other judges may need backup or assistance.

Hearings or trials before a judge in the criminal and juvenile courts are recorded either electronically or by court reporters. There is no charge. However, the court is under no obligation to provide court reporters in civil cases (including Family Division cases) even where the litigants are indigent. Civil case litigants that want their proceedings recorded are responsible for hiring their own court reporters to attend hearings or trials.

Contact the Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service or call them at 1-800-342-8011.

All interpreter requests must be made five days in advance of the hearing.  Please visit the Interpreters Page for more information.
If you have any further questions please contact…

  • Manatee County: (941) 749-3655
  • DeSoto County: (863) 993-4644
  • Sarasota County: (941) 861-7800

Judicial Automated Calendaring System (JACS)

Any attorney with a valid Florida bar number may access/use JACS. However, they must have their name and other information in the database prior to accessing JACS for the first time. First time users should visit the JACS page for instructions.

Password may have been changed/expired. Contact the JACS Coordinator through the JACS feedback form on the website and they will call you back.


Jury Duty

Jury Duty is the responsibility of the clerk of court. You can Contact the clerk’s office in DeSoto County (863) 993-4876, in Manatee County (941) 749-1800 or in Sarasota County (941) 861-7400 or visit our Juror Information page.


Self Help Center

We are inside the Silvertooth Judicial Center at 2002 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota, FL 34237.

Parking is available on the street (though generally, parking is limited to two hours). Free parking is available at the parking garage at the corner of Ringling Boulevard and School Avenue, across from the Department of Health. This is approximately two blocks or less from the judicial center.

We are open 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday–Friday. We are closed for lunch between 12 p.m.–1 p.m. We are closed on Saturdays and Sundays as well as court holidays.

Yes. We have three computers for legal research purposes. We reserve the right to ask someone to leave if they are not doing legal research or after 30 minutes of use if other patrons are waiting.

Printing and photocopying is currently a free service. However, we ask patrons to be mindful of the amount they print and whether something can be emailed instead of printed.

We are a very small space and would prefer that you do not.

Not at the Sarasota County Law Library. We have access to Fastcase, which is very similar to Westlaw. The Manatee County Law Library has access to Westlaw. Their phone number is (941) 741-4090 and address is 1051 Manatee Ave. W., 1st Floor, Bradenton, FL 34205

No. If you need to speak to an attorney you should refer to the “Lawyers & Legal Referrals” section of the website.

No.

No. In addition to possibly being construed as the unlicensed practice of law (see Florida Statute 454.23), the law is complex and should only be given by a qualified professional (e.g., an attorney). Self help and library employees can answer simple procedural questions (such as where to go to file a form) or which reference materials might be helpful for your research.

No.

No; however we have multiple legal dictionaries and other references available to help you understand unfamiliar language and/or terminology.

No. If you need help in Spanish, call to make an appointment at (941) 861-8191. If you need to translate forms from English to Spanish and Spanish to English please seek the services of a Notary Public who speaks Spanish.

No. We currently do not have the space for this. Please hold client meetings elsewhere, such as outside the courthouse.

Yes. We have a system for checking out CLE CDs. Please call our office or stop by if you are interested.

Unfortunately books are unavailable to be checked out for all patrons, including attorneys. Most of our collection is available electronically. The staff is happy to scan or print any selection of a book for legal research.

The Public Library of Law is accessible to anyone and brought to users by Fastcase. Users can search case law and see their search results, citation, and a brief summary of the case they find. To download the full case, users will need to access Fastcase or Westlaw.