Illustration of the old Orange County Courthouse

Under a new law passed by the legislature earlier this year, the amount in controversy threshold between county court and circuit court cases will raise to $30,000 on January 1, 2020. The threshold will raise again to $50,000 in January of 2023.

However, until January 2023, the District Courts of Appeal will retain jurisdiction over any appeals where the amount in controversy exceeds $15,000, regardless of whether the case originated in the county or circuit courts.

The Florida Bar News reports that preparations for the new jurisdictional amounts are already underway throughout Florida’s judicial system. Before the new law was passed, a working group analyzing the issue estimated that an increase of the amount in controversy threshold to $25,000 would result in 7,831 cases per year being filed in county court, rather than circuit court. The working group concluded that the change in caseload would be absorbable within existing court resources.

According to the Bar News, a major concern with the new law is that many county court judges hearing civil cases are assigned to courtrooms without jury facilities. Furthermore, the new law may ultimately require a rebalancing of circuit and county judge positions throughout Florida’s trial courts due to changes in case allocation. Also beginning in 2023, the circuit court appellate panels will likely see a significant increase in their caseloads.

The new law also requires the Office of State Courts Administrator to submit a report in February 2021 making recommendations regarding the adjustment of county court jurisdictional limits. A proposed new rule will update the civil cover sheet form, requiring parties to state the amount of the claim. The new civil cover sheet will make it possible to track the effect of raising the civil jurisdiction limit.

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