The Sixth District Court of Appeal: Florida’s Newest Intermediate Appellate Court
On June 2, 2022, Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law CS/HB 7027, creating a sixth appellate district effective January 1, 2023.1 This is the first new appellate district since the creation of the Fifth District Court in 1979.2 This blog post will explore the role of a District Court of Appeal (“DCA”) and will discuss the jurisdiction of the new Sixth DCA.
In Florida, the DCAs hear the bulk of trial court decisions.3 The DCAs were first created in 1957 to alleviate the caseload of the Florida Supreme Court.4 At the DCA level, cases are heard by a three-judge panel (in rare cases, a decision by the three-judge panel will be heard by the entire court, known as en banc review). Appeals to the DCAs provide parties the opportunity to review decisions of the lower courts to determine if a harmful error occurred and “to promote clarity and consistency in the law by publishing opinions that set forth the relevant facts of the case and the proper application of the law to those facts.”5 “The [DCAs] can hear appeals from final judgments in circuit court cases and in most county court cases and can review certain non-final orders.”6 Furthermore, the DCAs have the authority to review final decisions of state agencies and can issue extraordinary writs (orders) directing an entity to complete a specified task (for example, a writ of mandamus can direct a state agency to take a specific action).7 Generally, cases arising in state court will not proceed beyond the DCA level.
The newly created Sixth DCA is composed of the Ninth (Orange and Osceola Counties), Tenth (Hardee, Highlands, and Polk Counties), and Twentieth (Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry & Lee Counties) Judicial Circuits. The court will be headquartered in Lakeland. Previously, the Ninth Circuit (where our office is located) was in the Fifth DCA. The Sixth DCA will be comprised of nine judges: five from the Fifth DCA, one from the Second DCA, and three appointments by Governor DeSantis. The Second DCA, previously headquartered in Lakeland, will now be headquartered in St. Petersburg.
One aspect of the creation of the Sixth DCA to monitor will be how the court handles potential conflicts in decisions in the new district from circuits previously under the jurisdiction of the Second and Fifth DCAs. Although rare, the Sixth DCA will have to address that issue. Until that occurs, trial court judges can follow the majority of the DCAs on an issue, rely upon the most recent decision of a foreign DCA, or base its decision on how the court believes the Sixth DCA will rule if there is no relevant precedent.8 The creation of the Sixth DCA will ideally reduce the backlog at the DCA level and lead to a more efficient judiciary.
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1 Mark D. Killian, Judge Sasso Leads Way in Establishing the New Sixth District Court of Appeal, THE FLORIDA BAR, Aug. 5, 2022, available at https://www.floridabar.org/the-florida-bar-news/judge-sasso-leads-way-in-establishing-the-new-sixth-district-court-of-appeal/ (last visited Dec. 21, 2022).
3 For more information regarding the District Courts of Appeal, visit https://www.flcourts.gov/Florida-Courts/District-Courts-of-Appeal (last visited Dec. 21, 2022).