Understanding the Florida Supreme Court

The highest court in Florida is its Supreme Court, which is composed of seven justices

The Court generally convenes to hear oral arguments on cases before it the first week of each month, except during mid-summer.  Usually, all seven justices participate in oral argument. These sessions are open to the public and broadcast for the public to watch from anywhere.

The Chief Justice
By a majority vote of the justices, one of the justices is elected to serve as chief justice, an office which is rotated every two years. The chief justice is the top administrative officer of the judicial branch of government in Florida. The Chief Justice is eligible to serve four consecutive two year terms. 

What does the Chief Justice Do?

  • Presides at all proceedings of the Court. If the chief justice is absent from Court, the senior justice present becomes acting chief justice.
  • Assigns justices and judges, including retired justices and judges who consent and are approved by the Court to serve, to duty in courts which require temporary assistance.
  • Supervises the compilation and presentation of the judicial budget to the Legislature.
  • Presides or designates another justice to preside over impeachment proceedings in the Senate.

Justices

To be eligible to serve as a justice, a person must be a Florida resident eligible to vote and must have been admitted to the practice of law in Florida for the preceding 10 years.

Justices are appointed under a system called merit selection and retention. The governor appoints new justices from a list of three to six names submitted by an independent panel of citizens called a Judicial Nominating Commission. The governor must select from the list. Once appointed, justices eventually must face the voters in a "yes" or "no" vote as to whether they should remain on the Court. The Florida Constitution also requires appellate judges to retire when they reach 75 years of age.

COMPARE THE COURTS

Florida Supreme Court

United States Supreme Court

  • 7 justices
  • Governor must appoint from a list of nominees chosen by an independent panel with no confirmation required
  • Serve 6-year terms; mandatory retirement age is 75
  • Jurisdiction is limited, can’t pick and choose issues 
  • Sits continuously throughout the year (except for mid-summer recess), no deadline to have opinions issues.
  • Final authority on matters of Florida law
  • 9 justices
  • President can nominate anyone but confirmation by the Senate is required
  • Appointed for life
  • Has broad discretion to hear cases but takes only a very small percentage of appeals filed
  • Begins year in October, ends in June. Hears cases, decides cases by end of its year
  • Final authority on federal constitutional issues

History of the Court and Law in Florida

Operations & Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court

Other Resources

The Supreme Court is also responsible for governing the practice of law in Florida. It regulates the admission of lawyers to practice law in this state. It is responsible for the discipline of lawyers and judges, and for removing judges from the Bench.