The 12th Circuit is committed to providing timely access to the courts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although our current restrictions under the Florida Supreme Court’s Administrative Order prohibit us from conducting face-to-face hearings in many cases, including civil, family, and probate, we have implemented processes that allow us to handle most matters remotely. Zoom is the video platform we are currently utilizing. In addition, because many litigants and attorneys do not have that technology available, we are also conducting hearings via conference call or by other available means. If you let us know your needs, we will find a way for you to appear and be heard.
We understand that coming to court in a virtual fashion is not the norm, and is not ideal; however, we strongly believe that every case deserves to be considered without undue delay. There will be some cases that must be postponed until we are completely open for regular operations, but rest assured, we have been getting our re-open plans ready to implement so that those postponed cases can be scheduled as soon as possible.
With 32 judges in the circuit, there will inevitably be variations between the divisions on the daily logistics of scheduling and case management. This is always the case, even in the absence of these extraordinary circumstances. Although we strive for a basic level of consistency, each judge ultimately has a great deal of discretion in how to manage their courtroom. We are in constant communication with each other to make sure we are being as responsive and uniform as possible.
For those self represented litigants and defendants who have not yet been appointed or retained counsel, we want to stress that you should 1) keep your address and contact information current by clicking the link and emailing it to our self-help center staff who will notify the clerk’s office; 2) sign up for e-Notify (criminal cases only); and 3) contact the clerk of court if you are unsure about your upcoming court date.
- DeSoto County Clerk of Court staff can assist by email, phone at (863) 993-4876, or fax at (863) 993-4669
- Manatee County Clerk of Court staff can assist online, by phone at (941) 749-1800, or mail at Post Office Box 25400, Bradenton, FL 34206
- Sarasota County Clerk of Court staff can assist online, by phone at (941) 861-7400, or mail at Post Office Box 3079, Sarasota, FL 34230-3079
There will be hundreds, if not thousands, of notices for court dates sent over the next several weeks. It is imperative that we have good contact information for you. In addition, our county judges are working on a process that would allow out of custody defendants to resolve their cases using Zoom or other technology.
As part of our COVID-19 response, you can read our updated procedures, which includes information on foreclosures, evictions, bond forfeitures, and other issues such as parenting and custody orders as well as procedures for violation of quarantine orders. These procedures will be updated as circumstances warrant.
Finally, thank you for your patience and understanding. We are all frustrated with the limitations of conducting court in a virtual setting, but we are all in this together. Our judges, magistrates, assistants, court administration staff, interpreters, case managers, IT professionals, and court reporters are still reporting for duty and doing their jobs, and we look forward to seeing you in person soon.