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The Supreme Court of the State of Florida is the state supreme court of the U.S. state of Floridamarker. Established upon statehood in 1845, the court is headquartered across the street from the state capitol in Tallahasseemarker.

Throughout the court's history it has undergone many reorganizations as Florida's population has steadily grown. The Florida Supreme Court has heard many cases of note, including the 2000 presidential election Florida recount case Bush v. Gore.

Jurisdiction, duties, and powers

Florida Supreme Court
The jurisdiction of the Florida Supreme Court is laid out in Article V of the Florida Constitution. The Court follows the common law and since Stewart v. Preston (1846) has published official law reports of its precedential opinions.

The Florida Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction that is discretionary (cases the Court may choose to hear if it wishes) in most cases and mandatory (cases the court must hear) in a few cases. In some matters, the Court has original jurisdiction, meaning that the case can begin and end in the Supreme Court absent a basis for further appeal to the Supreme Court of the United Statesmarker. The Court also has some forms of exclusive jurisdiction, meaning that it is the only court or government body that can decide the issue. A detailed account of the Court's jurisdiction is available on its website.

Mandatory jurisdiction

The Florida Constitution, Article V, (3)(b)(1), establishes mandatory jurisdiction for the following:
  • Cases in which the death penalty is imposed (but solely to review findings of lower courts on the law, not on the facts). In such instances, the Florida Supreme Court directly reviews Florida Circuit Court decisions, skipping the intermediate Florida District Courts of Appeal (DCAs).
  • Decisions by the DCAs declaring invalid a state statute or constitutional provision.
  • The Florida Constitution, Article V, (3)(b)(2), permits the Florida Legislature to provide for mandatory jurisdiction in the following two circumstances (the legislature has so provided):
    • For final judgments on proceedings for validation of bonds or certificates of indebtedness. Here again, the Florida Supreme Court directly reviews circuit court decisions.
    • For review of action of statewide agencies relating to rates or service of electric, gas, and telephone utilities.

Discretionary jurisdiction

The Florida Constitution, Article V, (3)(b)(3-5), provides discretionary jurisdiction for a much larger set of circumstances, including:
  • DCA decisions expressly declaring a state statute or constitutional provision to be valid
  • DCA decisions that expressly affects a class of constitutional/state officers
  • DCA decisions that expressly and directly conflict with the decision of another DCA or of the Florida Supreme Court
  • DCA decisions that the DCA certifies to be of great public importance
  • DCA decisions that the DCA certifies to be in conflict with an opinion of another DCA
  • Orders or judgments of trial courts certified by a DCA in which appeal is pending to be of great public importance, or to have a great effect on the proper administration of justice throughout the state, and certified to require immediate resolution by the Supreme Court
  • Questions of law certified by the Supreme Court of the United Statesmarker or a United States court of appeals as determinative of a cause before them, for which there is no controlling precedent by the Florida Supreme Court.

Original nonexclusive jurisdiction

The Florida Constitution further grants the Supreme Court original nonexclusive jurisdiction over certain matters. "Original" means that the case can begin and end in the state Supreme Court absent a basis for further appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. "Nonexclusive" means that these matters do not absolutely have to begin in the Supreme Court, but also could originate in a lower court. The bulk of matters falling within this category often are called the "extraordinary writs" and include habeas corpus, mandamus, quo warranto, and the writ of prohibition.

Exclusive jurisdiction

Finally, the Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction over some other matters. "Exclusive" means that the Florida Supreme Court is the only court or governmental body that can resolve the issue. This category includes regulation of the Florida Bar, regulation of admissions to the Bar, creating and amending the Florida Rules of Court, and determining whether the Governor is incapacitated and thus unable to fulfill the duties of office. It also includes two forms of jurisdiction to issue advisory opinions. The Court can provide an advisory opinion upon a request by the Governor to address uncertainties about legal issues involving the executive branch's powers. It also can issue advisory opinions to the Florida Attorney General about citizens' initiatives to amend the state Constitution. However, for this last type of advisory opinion, the Court can only determine whether the citizens' initiative meets two legal requirements: (1) its ballot summary fairly advises the voters of its effect;and (2) it only contains a single subject. The effect of the advisory opinions commonly remove non-conforming initiatives from the ballot.

The Supreme Court also has the duty to review legislative redistricting after each decennial Census. After the Florida Legislature enacts a joint resolution reapportioning the State House and Senate, the plan is presented to the Supreme Court on a petition filed by the Florida Attorney General. The Supreme Court's review of an apportionment plan created by the Legislature is limited to two considerations: (1) whether the plan satisfies the equal protection standard of one-person, one-vote and (2) whether the plan satisfies the state constitutional requirement that the districts contain contiguous, overlapping, or identical territory. If the Legislature fails to initially pass a reapportionment plan or fails to enact a remedial plan after its primary plan is rejected by the Supreme Court, then the Court has the duty to apportion the State.

The Supreme Court also has the authority to impose discipline on state judges for ethical breaches, which can range from a public televised reprimand to removal from office. State judges also can be impeached by the Florida House of Representatives with trial in the Florida Senate. In practice this legislative procedure is so cumbersome that no state judge has been removed by the Senate following impeachment in the House.

Oral arguments

Oral arguments usually are televised live via The Florida Channel and also are webcast and uplinked to a satellite for digital downlink by news organizations and local cable access channels that reach more than three million Florida households. Broadcasts are organized by the Court public information office. Information on oral arguments is available on the court website. The Florida Supreme Court became a pioneer when, in 1997, it began providing these live broadcasts simultaneously on the Internet, satellite, and cable television, at no charge.


The court is composed of the Chief Justice and six Justices, who all serve six-year staggered terms. The Justices elect the Chief Justice from amongst themselves. Justices must be an elector (a qualified, registered voter) of the state and must have been a member in good standing of the Florida Bar for at least ten years. They must retire on their 70th birthday unless it falls within the second half of their six-year terms. In that event, they can remain in office until the end of the full term.

At least five Justices must be present for the Court to carry out its official functions, and at least four Justices must agree on decisions issued by the Court. The Chief Justice can assign judges of the lower courts to serve as temporary Justices (called "Associate Justices" under Florida Rules of Court) if the need arises. Under the Court's Internal Operations Procedures Manual, the appointment of Associate Justices rotates among the chief judges of the district courts of appeal in their numerical order, from one to five, and then starts over again. The obvious intent behind this procedure is to eliminate any concern that temporary Associate Justices are appointed because of their personal views on legal issues.

Appointment and retention

The Court must have at least one justice who resided in each of Florida's five lower appellate districts on the date of their appointment. A relatively complex appointment process (known as a modified "Missouri Plan") is set forth in the Florida Constitution, which requires the creation of a Judicial Nominating Commission composed of persons appointed to staggered four year terms, representing various interests. The Commission must submit to the Governor of Florida between three and six names for each vacancy on the court, from which the Governor selects the new Justice. The Governor's selection is final and requires no further approval by any governmental body.

After appointment, the new Justice must face statewide voters in the next general election that is more than one year after the date of initial appointment. In this "merit retention" election, voters decide only if the new Justice will remain in office. If not retained in office, the Governor appoints a replacement through the same Judicial Nominating Commission process. After this first merit retention election, Justices face the voters in the same type of merit retention election every six years thereafter until they leave or reach retirement age.

Current Justices by order of seniority

Justice Born Year appointed Chief Justice Term Ends Mandatory Retirement Appointed by Governor
Barbara J. Pariente 1948 1997 2004-2006 2013 2018 Lawton Chiles
R. Fred Lewis 1947 1998 2006-2008 2013 2017 Lawton Chiles
Peggy A. Quince 1948 1998 2008-Present 2013 2018 Lawton Chiles/

Buddy MacKay/

Jeb Bush
Charles T. Canady 1954 2008 no 2011 2024 Charlie Crist
Ricky Polston 1956 2008 no 2011 2026 Charlie Crist
Jorge Labarga 1953 2009 no 2011 2023 Charlie Crist
James E.C. Perry 1944 2009 no 2011 2014 Charlie Crist

Former Justices

A picture of the Florida Supreme Court in the 1950's
Justice Years served Chief Justice service Reason for leaving
Thomas Douglas 1846-1850 & 1854-1855 Yes Died
Thomas Baltzell 1846-1850 & 1854-1860 Yes Resignation
George S. Hawkins 1846-1850 No
George W. MacRae 1847 No
Joseph B. Lancaster 1848-1850 No
Walker Anderson 1851-1853 Yes
Albert G. Semmes 1851-1853
Benjamin D. Wright 1853
Charles H. DuPont 1854-1868 Yes
Bird M. Pearson 1856-1859 Yes Died
William A. Forward 1860-1865
David S. Walker 1860-1865
Augustus E. Maxwell 1865-1866 & 1887-1890
James McNair Baker 1865-1868
Samuel J. Douglas 1866-1868
Edwin M. Randall 1868-1885 Yes Retired
Ossian B. Hart 1868-1873
James D. Westcott, Jr. 1868-1885 No Resigned due to health concerns
Franklin D. Fraser 1873-1874
Robert Van Valkenburgh 1874-1888
George G. McWhorter 1885-1887
George P. Raney 1885-1894
Henry L. Mitchell 1888-1891
R. Fenwick Taylor 1891-1925 Yes Retired
Milton H. Mabry 1891-1903
Benjamin S. Liddon 1894-1896
Francis B. Carter 1897-1905
Thomas M. Shackleford 1902-1917
Robert S. Cockrell 1902-1917
Evelyn C. Maxwell 1902-1904
William A. Hocker 1903-1915
James B. Whitfield 1904-1943
Charles B. Parkhill 1905-1911
William H. Ellis 1915-1938
Jefferson B. Browne 1917-1925
Thomas F. West 1917-1925
William Glenn Terrell 1923-1964 Yes Died
Armstead Brown 1925-1946
Louie W. Strum 1925-1931
Rivers H. Buford 1925-1948
Fred H. Davis 1931-1937
Roy H. Chapman 1937-1952
Elwyn Thomas 1938-1969
Alto Adams 1940-1951 & 1967-1968
H.L. Sebring 1943-1955
Paul D. Barns 1946-1949
T. Frank Hobson 1948-1962
B.K. Roberts 1949-1976
John E. Mathews 1951-1955
E. Harris Drew 1952-1971
B. Campbell Thornal 1955-1970
Stephen C. O'Connell 1955-1967
Millard F. Caldwell 1962-1969
Richard W. Ervin 1964-1975
Wade L. Hopping 1968-1969 No Defeated in retention election
Vassar B. Carlton 1969-1974
James C. Adkins 1969-1987 Yes Mandatory retirement
Joseph A. Boyd, Jr. 1969-1987 Yes Mandatory retirement
David L. McCain 1970-1975 No Resigned
Hal P. Dekle 1971-1975 No Resigned
Ben F. Overton 1974-1999 Yes Mandatory retirement
Arthur J. England, Jr. 1975-1981 Yes Returned to private practice
Alan C. Sundberg 1975-1982 Yes Returned to private practice
Joseph W. Hatchett 1975-1979 No Appointed to federal court
Frederick B. Karl 1977-1978 No Resigned
James E. Alderman 1978-1985 Yes Resigned
Parker Lee McDonald 1979-1994 Yes Retired
Raymond Ehrlich 1981-1991 Yes Mandatory retirement
Leander J. Shaw, Jr. 1983-2003 Yes Mandatory retirement
Rosemary Barkett 1985-1994 Yes Appointed to federal court
Stephen H. Grimes 1987-1997 Yes Mandatory retirement
Gerald Kogan 1987-1998 Yes Retired
Major B. Harding 1991-2002 Yes Returned to private practice
Harry Lee Anstead 1994-2009 Yes Mandatory retirement
Charles T. Wells 1994-2009 Yes Mandatory retirement
Raoul G. Cantero, III 2002-2008 No Returned to private practice
Kenneth B. Bell 2003-2008 No Returned to private practice

Notable Cases


In 2006, the Court struck down a law passed by the Florida legislature that had created the United States' first state-wide education voucher program. In Engle v. Liggett Group, it also ordered decertification of a class action lawsuit against big tobacco companies that effectively reversed the largest punitive damage jury award, $145 billion, in U.S. history.


In 2004, the court struck down another piece of legislation from the Florida legislature designed to reverse a lower court decision in the Terri Schiavo case.


In the 2000 presidential election controversy, the Supreme Court of the United Statesmarker overturned the Florida Supreme Court after it had ordered a statewide recount. Notably, arguments before the Florida Supreme Court in the 2000 presidential election cases were the first appellate court proceedings in history broadcast live in their entirety on major television networks in the United States and throughout the world. These events later were dramatized in the 2008 HBO movie Recount.


In 1999, a dissenting opinion by one of the Justices sparked a world-wide debate over the use of Old Sparky, Florida's electric chair, which may have led to events that caused the Florida Legislature to adopt lethal injection as the state's method of execution only a few months later.

See also

External links

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