County Court Judges in Hillsborough County
COVID-19 Update: Because of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the courts have recently published information on how to attend court virtually for each judge using Zoom video conferencing with a special Zoom Meeting ID number and password.
After an arrest for a misdemeanor offense in Hillsborough County, FL, it is easy to determine which judge will be assigned to your case. The judge assigned to your case depends on the type of offense you are charged with, where your arrest occurred, and the first letter of your last name.
To explain these procedures, the courts use administrative orders. Chief Judge Ronald N. Ficarrotta, of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida, recently filed Administrative Order 2015-071 dealing with the new procedures for assigning criminal cases to judges in Hillsborough County.
Listed below are the assignments for the County Court Criminal Division, effective January 1, 2018. In Hillsborough County, for the ten criminal divisions of County Court, including the First Appearance / Emergency Division and the Domestic Violence Division.
In Hillsborough County, FL, the following divisions are found at the courthouse in downtown Tampa: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and O. Division “P” and “X” are found in Plant City, FL.
Judicial Assignments for Misdemeanors in Tampa, FL
Except for domestic violence criminal offenses, the clerk assigns all misdemeanor offenses and criminal traffic offenses to a county criminal division according to the first letter of the defendant’s last name. This rule applies to all cases going to the courthouse in Tampa, FL, because cases assigned to the Plant City Courthouse use a different procedure.
For Tampa cases, then a notice to appear, criminal report affidavit or information is filed, the clerk will assign the case according to the following alphabetical distribution:
- Division “A” – The Honorable Jack Gutman – First Letter of Defendant’s Last Name – A, G, 0, S, U
- https://zoom.us/j/99510683326 ID: 995-1068-3326 PW: Not Required
- Division “B” – The Honorable Eric R. Myers – First Letter of Defendant’s Last Name – B, F, I, P, Q, Z
- https://zoom.us/j/92168743714 ID: 921-6874-3714 PW: Not Required
- Division “C” – The Honorable Scott A. Farr – First Letter of Defendant’s Last Name – D, E, M, N , V, X, Y
- https://zoom.us/j/9814348181 ID: 981-434-8181 PW: Not Required
- Division “D” — The Honorable Paul T. Jeske – – First Letter of Defendant’s Last Name – C, K, R, T
- https://zoom.us/j/5713105947 ID: 571-310-5947 PW: Not Required
- Division “E” – The Honorable John N. Conrad – First Letter of Defendant’s Last Name – H, J, L, W
- https://zoom.us/j/95687943345 ID: 956-8794-3345 PW: Not Required
- All Domestic Violence Cases go to Division “F” with The Honorable Margaret R. Taylor, Judge (who is also assigned to Trial Division “R”)
- https://zoom.us/j/95371457590 ID: 953-7145-7590 PW: Not Required
- All First Appearance Cases go to Division “O” with The Honorable Catherine M. Catlin
- https://zoom.us/j/4974569011 ID: 497-456-9011 PW: Not Required
The County Criminal Division “G” was abolished effective October 21, 2019.
Currently, County Court is comprised of nine criminal divisions, including Division “O.” See Administrative Order S-2020-007 (Criminal Division “O ” – Preliminary Proceedings) or any subsequent administrative order for the provisions governing this specialized subdivision of the county criminal division.
Divisions “A,” “B,” “C ,” “D,” “E ,” “F” (domestic violence) , and “O ” are based in Tampa. East County.
If you are charged with a felony, then your case will be assigned to a felony judge in Circuit Court in Hillsborough County, FL, the criminal division.
Judicial Assignment for Misdemeanors in Plant City, FL
The Plant City Courthouse serves Plant City, Sun City Center, Seffner, Fish Hawk, Bloomingdale and surrounding areas in the eastern part of Hillsborough County, FL.
All misdemeanor offenses and criminal traffic offenses in which the offense occurred within the East Division boundaries will be assigned to East County Criminal Division “P” or “X” based on the first letter of the defendant’s last name.
If the first letter of the defendant’s last name is “A” through “L,” the case will be assigned to East County Division “P.” If the first letter of the defendant’s last name if “M” through “Z,” the case will be assigned to East County Division “X.”
- Division “P” – The Honorable Art E. McNeil, Judge – First Letter of Defendant’s Last Name – A – L
- P/Q https://zoom.us/j/4027639381 ID: 402-763-9381 PW: Not Required
- Division “X” – The Honorable Richard A. Weis, Judge – First Letter of Defendant’s Last Name – M – Z
- Weis X/Y https://zoom.us/j/6519848351 ID: 651-984-8351 PW: Not Required
Administrative Order S-2013-033 (East Division) sets out the geographical boundaries of the East Division. It provides that for purposes of circuit and county court jurisdiction, the East Division consist of the following described area of Hillsborough County:
All that part of Hillsborough County lying within the following boundaries:
- from the boundary line of Hillsborough and Pasco Counties south on U.S. 301 to the first time U.S. 301 intersects I-75;
- south on I-75 to the Alafia River;
- east along the Alfia River to CR 640;
- east along CR 640 to SR 39;
- south on SR 39 to the boundary line of Hillsborough and Manatee Counties;
- east along the boundary line of Hillsborough and Manatee Counties to the boundary line of Hillsborough and Polk Counties;
- north along the boundary line of Hillsborough and Polk Counties to the boundary line of Hillsborough and Pasco Counties;
- west along the boundary line of Hillsborough and Pasco Counties to U.S. 301.
Failure to Appear – Criminal Traffic Violation
The failure of any defendant to appear at the Traffic Violations Bureau within 10 days from the date of issuance of the citation and make disposition of any citation for any criminal traffic violations within Chapter 316, 320, and 322, Florida Statutes, will result in the clerk setting a court date and notifying the defendant.
As a practical matter, it is nearly impossible to appear at the Traffic Violations Bureau within 10 days to make a disposition of the citation because the Traffic Violations Bureau rarely enters the citation into their system within that 10-day window. For this reason, the clerk will set a court date and mail the notice to the defendant.
If the defendant fails to appear at the hearing set by the clerk, the court may issue a failure to appear capias for the arrest of the defendant, together with a Form D-6 (license suspension). The capias includes a bond amount to ensure the defendant’s appearance before the court.
If a capias was issued for a failure to appear, you can hire an attorney to file a “motion to withdraw the capias” and set a court date. If the court knows that your failure to appear wasn’t intentional, the court might just withdraw the capias and give you another court date. That way, you can avoid going into custody and getting another mugshot taken.
After you get picked up on the capias, you must post the bond amount before you will be released. A capias may be issued when the defendant is a minor, but the minor will be released on the minor’s own recognizance.
Read more about hiring a private attorney to file a motion to quash or withdraw the capias and set a new court date so that you do not have to go into custody. Surrendering at the jail means that another criminal arrest record and mug shot will be created. Regardless of whether you hire a private attorney to help you or whether you surrender on the capias at the jail, act quickly.
In Hillsborough County, officers act quickly to serve the outstanding capias at your home or place of business. If you have an outstanding capias – call an attorney at the Sammis Law Firm to discuss your case.
Domestic Violence Crimes in Hillsborough County, FL
All domestic violence cases in Hillsborough County, FL, that involve defendants domiciled outside of the East Division boundaries will be assigned to Division “F.”
If a defendant who has a domestic violence case pending or who is on probation in Division “F” or East County Criminal Division “P” or “X” is subsequently charged with a new misdemeanor charge that is not a domestic violence case, the new misdemeanor charged will be assigned to a county criminal division according to the assignment procedures in this administrative order.
If a defendant is on probation in a division other than Division “F” or East County Criminal Division “P” or “X” and is subsequently charged with a domestic violence case, the clerk will file the domestic violence case in Division “F” or East County Division “P” or “X” and the probation case will remain the division in which it is pending.
Role of the Judge in the County Court in Hillsborough County
The role of the County Court Judges in Hillsborough County is to oversee the courtroom proceedings in a criminal case that will render a result that is based on an impartial and fair assessment of the evidence presented.
The jurisdiction of the county criminal division at the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County, FL, includes:
- misdemeanor cases; including domestic violence-related misdemeanors heard in a specialized division;
- criminal traffic offenses;
- county ordinance; and
- municipal violations.
One judge is assigned as the Administrative Judge. One judge is assigned as the Administrative Judge for First Appearance.
Before the trial, the judge may be asked to rule on pre-trial motions filed by the defense attorney such as a motion to suppress evidence or a motion to dismiss the criminal charge.
During a jury trial, the role of the judge is to ensure that procedural rules are strictly followed and to encourage the jury to make a fair and neutral determination after applying the applicable Florida laws.
The judge is also responsible for sentencing the person accused if the person enters a plea of guilty or no contest or if a guilty verdict is returned after a trial. For individuals sentenced to probation, the judge will preside over any violation of probation hearing or a motion to terminate probation early.
In the event the charges are dropped or dismissed, the person accused can petition to have their record sealed or expunged. The judge will also determine if such relief will be granted.
Senior Judges in Hillsborough County, FL
In Hillsborough County, a senior judge might be asked to fill in for a hearing or trial when the judge assigned to the division is not available or during a vacancy. Retired judges who wish to remain active and offer assistance to the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit are approved for recall by order of the Florida Supreme Court.
Senior judges in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit are vested with all necessary powers to complete judicial assignments. The senior judges are used for:
- educational, professional or personal absence of a presiding judge;
- cases requiring out-of-circuit judges;
- lengthy trials; and
- special category cases.
The Number of Courtrooms in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit
The Thirteenth (13th) Judicial Circuit in and for Hillsborough County, FL, has seventy-one (71) courtrooms. These 71 courtrooms are located in four different buildings.
In downtown Tampa, the 13th Judicial Circuit has courtrooms in the following three buildings:
- thirty-five (35) courtrooms in the Edgecomb Courthouse;
- thirty-one (31) courtrooms in the Annex (located across the street from the Edgecomb Courthouse); and
- one (1) courtroom for traffic court located across the street at 419 Pierce.
The 13th Judicial Circuit also has four (4) courtrooms at the Plant City Courthouse for civil, traffic, and misdemeanor cases.
Professional Conduct and Courtroom Decorum in Hillsborough County, FL
The judges in Hillsborough County, FL, expect attorneys to adhere to rules of professional conduct when appearing in their courtroom. For example, attorneys in Hillsborough County, FL, must adhere to:
- The Florida Bar’s Guidelines for Professional Conduct found at https://www.floridabar.org/prof/presources/presources002/.
- The Florida Bar’s Professionalism Expectations found at https://www.floridabar.org /wp-content/uploads/2017/04/professionalism-expectations.pdf.
- the Hillsborough County Bar Association’s Standards of Professionalism found at https://www.hillsbar.com/page/Professionalism.
In addition, some judges have announced and enforced additional requirements or have excused compliance with certain provisions of the Guidelines, Expectations, or Standards as the judge deemed appropriate.
Hillsborough County Judicial Directory of County Court Judges – Visit the website of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit to find more information about the judicial assignments in County Court for Hillsborough County in either Tampa or Plant City. The judicial directory also includes a printer-friendly alphabetical listing or listing by division.
2015 Judicial Survey Results for Judges in Hillsborough County, FL – More than 100 attorneys completed a survey rating different judges on a scale of 1 to 5 on such qualities as judicial demeanor and fairness. The results of the survey included some complimentary comments about individual judges and some pointed criticisms that were kept anonymous.
Hillsborough County Clerk of Courts – Visit the website for the clerk’s office in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit to find Records and Reports, information on the Traffic Department, and ways to search records in criminal cases including the dockets.
Conference of County Court Judges in Florida – Visit the CCCJF website of the Conference of County Court Judges in Florida. The conference is committed to the continuing education of county court judges throughout Florida including in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in and for Hillsborough County in Tampa, FL.
Attorneys for Criminal Cases in Hillsborough County, FL
Contact a DUI Lawyer in Tampa, FL, at the Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL, to discuss the particular facts of your case. Our criminal defense attorneys focus on drunk driving cases throughout Hillsborough County, FL, including cases at both the Tampa and Plant City Courthouse.
Our offices are in downtown Tampa, just a short distance from the courthouse. Let us put our experience to work for you.
Call us today for a free consultation at 813-250-0500.
This article was last updated on Thursday, September 3, 2020.