Opinions & Decisions of the Court

Like all courts, the Florida Supreme Court decides cases in two ways -- by order or by opinion. Orders and opinions are both written documents. Opinions are lengthy and can take several months before the final product is released to the public.

Opinions

After a case is filed and received by the Clerk's Office, a justice is randomly assigned to be the "lead" justice for the case. Staff attorneys for that justice begin the process by reviewing the filings and researching case law. Information about the case from the lower courts, including the court reporter’s transcripts and briefs, is used to write the opinion. 

Not every case receives an oral argument in the courtroom. In fact, most cases are decided electronically or during one of the Court’s scheduled conferences. 

After the lead justice is finished drafting the opinion, the document is circulated to the other justices who then have the opportunity to suggest edits before voting on the final product.

The justices vote on each case, often more than once, and the assigned justice writes the majority opinion.

Concurring/Dissenting opinions

Justices who are not the lead justice in the case but wish to express their opinions may write either a concurring opinion if they agree but wish to make a particular point not covered in the majority opinion, or dissenting opinion if they do not agree with the majority.

Four of the seven justices must concur, or agree, on any decision of the Court.

Per Curium Opinions

Some opinions do not identify the author and are labeled as “Per Curium” or “by the court.” 

Quorum

Five justices constitute a quorum, which is necessary for the Court to carry out its official business, including holding oral arguments and issuing opinions.

Decisions by Order

The vast majority of cases are decided by orders, as Caseload Statistics from prior years show. Cases decided by opinion are elaborate written decisions issued by the Court that get the most public attention, even though they are only a fraction of the total cases decided each year.