Understanding Oral Argument
The Court generally convenes the first week of each month with the exception of July, and August, to hear oral arguments on cases before it. Oral argument scheduling and case summary details are on the website.
The Marshal sits at the desk to the right of the Bench, and he announces the opening of the Court with this announcement:
HEAR YE, HEAR YE, HEAR YE.
The Supreme Court of Florida is now in session.
All who have cause to plea, draw near, give attention, and ye shall be heard.
God save these United States, this great State of Florida, and this Honorable Court.
[After the Justices enter, he announces]
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Florida Supreme Court, please be seated.
Arguing before the Court
An oral argument is NOT a retrial of the case. [Read more about the differences between trial and appellate courts.]
The lawyers stand at the lectern in front of the justices to argue the legal issues in question of the case. Lights on the lectern signal how much time the lawyer has left to present the case being argued. Typical oral arguments allow each side either 20 or 30 minutes.
Immediately after oral arguments conclude for the day, the justices retire to the Conference Room behind the Courtroom to discuss the various cases just heard. Only the Justices attend these conferences. The Court’s tradition is that the newest justice, usually referred to as the junior Justice, opens and closes the door to the Conference Room and is the last one to enter and leave the Courtroom during oral arguments.
NOTE: 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. During an electronic vote, the justices can discuss and vote electronically and then shortly thereafter an opinion or order is issued on the case.
Making a decision
The justices vote on each case, often more than once, and the assigned justice writes the majority opinion. Other justices may write dissenting opinions if they do not agree with the majority, or they may write concurring opinions if they agree, but wish to make a particular point not covered in the majority opinion. This process can take many months to complete.
Four of the seven justices must concur, or agree, on any decision of the Court. 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 of the Court
The Clerk's Office releases opinions at 11 a.m. each Thursday unless no opinions are ready for release at that time. Court staff posts them to this website as soon as possible. Some opinions may be released outside of this schedule, called "out-of-calendar" releases, such as in emergencies. Scheduled and unscheduled opinion releases are announced via Twitter @flcourts.
The Court releases many opinions decided without oral argument.