Judge's Table

FLORIDA STATE CIVIL APPEALS

JURISDICTION

Broadly, appellate jurisdiction is the judicial power to review an order of a lower court: (1) the appellate court must have potential authority to review the type of order which is the subject of the proceeding; (2) the appellate court must have authority over the lower tribunal that rendered the order; and (3) the appellate court must actually have authority in the case; meaning, the party seeking review must have followed necessary procedures invoking jurisdiction of the court.

 

Florida appellate courts' powers come primarily from the Florida Constitution, but also from legislation or court rules authorized by the Constitution. Additionally, the judicial power of the appellate courts is limited by the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure. Therefore, appellate jurisdiction has both substantive and procedural aspects.

 

Article V, section 3(b) of the Florida Constitution creates and defines the jurisdiction of the Florida Supreme Court.Rule 9.030(a) of the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure contains a statement of the jurisdiction of the supreme court in appellate proceedings, listing the types of cases that may be reviewed by the supreme court.

 

Article V, section 4(b) of the Florida Constitution establishes thejudicial power for each of the six district courts of appeal. In extraordinary writ proceedings, the jurisdiction of the district courts of appeal is derived directly from the constitution. However, in appeals from final orders, the jurisdiction of the district courts of appeal is established indirectly by legislation, and in appeals from nonfinal orders the jurisdiction of the district courts is established by rules of procedure adopted under the general authority granted by the constitution.

 

Subject matter appellate jurisdiction has been defined as the “power of the court to adjudicate the class of cases to which the particular case belongs.” But the power over the subject matter of a given case does not alone determine the existence of appellate jurisdiction. For the party seeking review must activate the power of the court through certain procedural steps.

 

The district courts of appeal are limited to reviewing orders rendered by lower tribunals within the geographic boundaries of their appellate districts. The Florida Supreme Court has statewide authority over all cases within its subject matter jurisdiction. There are six district courts of appeal and twenty circuit courts. Because there is more than one court at some levels of the appellate court system, the party seeking review of a case must often select the correct court.

 

An appellate court has authority to review an order when the party seeking review has followed the required procedure to invoke the court's jurisdiction. Properly initiated appellate review is achieved by filing the appropriate notice or petition; the jurisdiction of the appellate court is activated and the court then has actual power to review the order that is the subject of the proceeding. But the appellate court acquires actual jurisdiction over a case only if the notice or petition is filed within the jurisdictional time limits set by the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure.

INITIATING THE APPEAL 

 

All review proceedings fall within one of two general categories: Those initiated by filing a notice in the lower tribunal and those initiated by filing a petition directly in the appellate court. In both cases, a notice or petition is the document that invokes the jurisdiction of the appellate court.

 

The method of appealing an order in a civil case is to file a notice of appeal in the lower tribunal within jurisdictional time limits. Filing the notice or petition marks the transfer of judicial power from the lower tribunal to the appellate court.

 

Upon filing a notice of appeal, the lower tribunal loses power to reconsider or modify the order to be reviewed. But filing the notice does not prevent enforcement of the order, unless the appellant has obtained a stay pending the appeal.

 

After the filing of the notice or petition, the appellate court continues to exercise jurisdiction over the case until the court makes a final decision on the merits of the case by issuing a mandate directed to the lower tribunal. Generally, the jurisdiction of an appellate court terminates when the court issues its mandate.

 

FLORIDA'S APPELLATE COURTS 

 

The Florida Constitution generally affords all citizens the right to appeal. However, the jurisdiction of the district courts of appeal is limited by specific provisions of the constitution, and also by the laws and rules implementing those provisions. For example, the district courts of appeal do not have jurisdiction to answer certified questions from circuit courts because there is no constitutional or statutory authority for the exercise of appellate jurisdiction in such cases.

Rule 9.030(b) of the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure logically restates the jurisdiction of the district courts of appeal, but it does not itself grant jurisdictional power. That rule lists the particular types of cases that may be reviewed by the district courts of appeal and classifies each case within general categories: (1) appeal jurisdiction; (2) certiorari jurisdiction; (3) discretionary jurisdiction; and (4) original jurisdiction.

 

In some circumstances, the decisions of the district courts of appeal are subject to further review by the Florida Supreme Court. However, the district courts are not "intermediate" courts, though it is sometimes possible that further appellate review occurs in the state Supreme Court or in Federal courts. Indeed, beyond the decision of a district court of appeal there are no further appeals.

 

The district courts of appeal may exercise appellate jurisdiction over the circuit courts. Article V, section 4(b)(3) provides that a district court of appeal may exercise any of the appellate jurisdiction of the circuit courts “[t]o the extent necessary to dispose of all issues in a cause properly before it.” And Article V, section 5(b) of the Florida Constitution establishes the appellate jurisdiction of the circuit courts.

 

In extraordinary writ proceedings, the judicial power of the circuit courts flows directly from the constitution. However, in appeals and discretionary review proceedings, the right to seek judicial review in the circuit court depends on the existence of legislation designed to establish a specific form of appellate jurisdiction under the general authority of the constitution.

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