The Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure govern all appellate proceeding in the State of Florida. Whether the appellate proceeding is criminal appeal, civil appeal or administrative appeal the Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure control. The Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure are designed to be the supreme rule set and, specifically in Rule 9.010, explain that these rules take precedence and supersede any conflicting statutes and any conflicting rule of procedure found in Florida Rules of Judicial Administration 2.130.
Florida District Courts of Appeal
There are five District Courts of Appeal in Florida, located in Tallahassee, Lakeland, Miami, West Palm Beach and Daytona Beach.
• Florida First District Court of Appeal – (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 8th and 14th Circuits)
• Florida Second District Court of Appeal – (6th, 10th, 12th, 13th and 20th Circuits)
• Florida Third District Court of Appeal – (11th and 16th Circuits)
• Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal – (15th, 17th and 19th Circuits)
• Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal – (5th, 7th, 9th and 18th Circuits)
While the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure contain the core rules for conducting appeals, these rules reference several other sets of rules and sections of Florida Statutes such as Florida Statutes Chapter 120 which defines the Administrative Procedures Act and the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure. Again, all conflicting rules are subject to those contained in the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure.
The first thing that the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure lay out are the respective jurisdictions of the various Florida courts as they pertain to appeals. The Florida Supreme Court has direct appellate jurisdiction over final court orders imposing the death sentence and appeals from district courts declaring state statutes or state constitutional provisions invalid. Certain general law provisions also vest jurisdiction in the Florida Supreme Court to handle appeals in proceeding dealing with the validation of bonds and certificates of indebtedness as well as actions of statewide agencies pertaining to service utility rates.
The Florida Supreme Court also has discretionary jurisdiction, meaning that the court can choose to hear particular cases, relating to district court of appeal decisions that do one of the following:
• expressly declare valid a state statute
• expressly construe a provision of the state or federal constitution
• expressly affect a class of constitutional or state officers
• expressly and directly conflict with a decision of
• another district court of appeal or of the supreme court on the same question of law
• pass upon a question certified to be of great public importance
• are certified to be in direct conflict with decisions of other district courts of appeal
• orders and judgments of trial courts certified by the district court of appeal in which the appeal is pending to require immediate resolution by the supreme court, and to be of great public importance, or to have a great effect on the proper administration of justice
• questions of law certified by the Supreme Court of the United States or a United States court of appeals that are determinative of the cause of action and for which there is no controlling precedent of the Supreme Court of Florida
A review of the above Florida Supreme Court discretionary jurisdiction options reveals that it can be quite difficult to get a criminal, civil or administrative appeal beyond the district court of appeal. However, when a petition for discretionary review to the Florida Supreme Court must be based on one or more of these reasons and even then does not ensure that the Florida Supreme Court will agree to hear the case.
The Florida Supreme Court also has original jurisdiction to issue several different types of writs including writs of prohibition necessary for its exercise of jurisdiction, writs of mandamus and quo warranto to state officers and agencies as well as writs of habeas corpus.
The intermediate appellate courts, the Florida District Courts of Appeal, have appellate jurisdiction over final trial court orders except as provided earlier in Florida Supreme Court appellate jurisdiction and, as provided by general law, administrative actions. Florida District Courts of Appeal also have limited certiorari jurisdiction to hear non-final orders of lower court, except as Rule 9.130 proscribes, and final orders of lower circuit courts when acting as a review court. Like the Florida Supreme Court, the District Courts of Appeal naturally have original and discretionary review capacities.
Discretionary review allows the District Courts of Appeal to review final orders of county courts and non-final orders, otherwise appealable to the circuit court if the county court certifies that these are of great public importance. The Florida District Courts of Appeal have original jurisdiction to issue writs such as mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and even common law certiorari as they may require to fully exercise the court’s jurisdiction.
The circuit courts, as with the other courts have appellate, certiorari and original jurisdiction to hear a variety of cases. Basically the circuit courts can hear appeals on final orders, non-final order and administrative actions from lower courts. As with the Florida Supreme Court and The District Courts of Appeal, the circuit courts have certiorari jurisdiction to review non-final orders or lower courts, except as per Rule 9.130. The district courts may also issue writs of mandamus, writs of prohibition, writs of habeas corpus and quo warranto as required to exercise their jurisdiction.
Determining which court an appellate action belongs in and the proper mechanism to approach the court is critical to success in an appellate case. If the court determines that an action isn’t properly filed then it may be dismissed without the ability to refile.