County Court Judges in Hillsborough County
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 filed an updated Administrative Order. The order explains how criminal cases are assigned to judges in Hillsborough County.
Listed below are the assignments for the County Court Criminal Division. In Hillsborough County, the nine criminal divisions of the County Court, including the Domestic Violence Division and the First Appearance / Emergency Division, known as Division “O.” Division “O” is a specialized subdivision of the county criminal 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. Divisions “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 non-domestic violence cases based in Tampa, FL, if the notice to appear, criminal report affidavit, or information is filed, then the clerk will assign the case according to the following alphabetical distribution:
- Division “A” with The Honorable Cynthia S. Oster
- if the first letter of the defendant’s last name is A, E, F, G, I, O, Q, S, U, Z
- Division “B” with The Honorable Margaret R. Taylor
- Although County Criminal Division “B” was temporarily abolished on December 31, 2020, as of November 15, 2021, Judge Taylor was assigned to County Criminal Division “B.”
- Division “C” with The Honorable Scott A. Farr
- if the first letter of the defendant’s last name is B, D, M, V, X, Y
- Division “D” with The Honorable Paul T. Jeske
- if the first letter of the defendant’s last name is C,K,N,R,T
- Division “E” with The Honorable John N. Conrad
- if the first letter of the defendant’s last name is H, J, L, P, W
All Domestic Violence Cases go to Division “F.” Effective November 15, 2021, The Honorable Jeffrey M. Rich is assigned to County Criminal Division “F.”
All First Appearance Cases go to Division “O” with The Honorable Catherine M. Catlin.
If you are charged with a felony, 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 is “M” through “Z,” the case will be assigned to East County Division “X.”
- Division “P” – The Honorable Monique M. Scott, Judge – First Letter of Defendant’s Last Name – A – L
- Division “X” – The Honorable Richard A. Weis, Judge – First Letter of Defendant’s Last Name – M – Z
Effective June 1, 2021, Richard A. Weis is designated as administrative judge of the East County Division.
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 consists 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 ten (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 ten (10) calendar days because it rarely enters the citation into its 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 defendant’s arrest, together with a Form D-6 (license suspension).
The capias includes a bond 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 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 being 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 you do not have to go into custody.
Surrendering at the jail creates another criminal arrest record and mug shot. 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 business. If you have 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.
Suppose 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. In that 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 in 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 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 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.
If the charges are dropped or dismissed, the 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 unavailable or during a vacancy.
Retired judges who wish to remain active and assist the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit are approved for recall by the Florida Supreme Court order.
Senior judges in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit have all the necessary powers to complete judicial assignments. Senior judges cover for other judges based on the following:
- 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
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 following:
- Florida Bar’s Guidelines for Professional Conduct
- Florida Bar’s Professionalism Expectations
- Hillsborough County Bar Association’s Standards of 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.
Jurisdiction of County Court Judges
The Florida Constitution established the statewide judiciary, including the county courts. Art. V, § 1, Fla. Const. provides:
“The judicial power shall be vested in a supreme court, district courts of appeal, circuit courts and county courts.”
Art. V, § 6, Fla. Const. provides:
“County Courts — (a) Organization. — There shall be a county court in each county. There shall be one or more judges for each county court as prescribed by general law. (b) Jurisdiction. — The county courts shall exercise the jurisdiction prescribed by general law. Such jurisdiction shall be uniform throughout the state.”
In Florida, the county courts have jurisdiction over misdemeanor criminal traffic offenses. “County courts shall have original jurisdiction. . . [i]n all misdemeanor cases not cognizable by the circuit courts. . . .” § 34.01(1)(a), Fla. Stat. (2019). “Original jurisdiction in criminal cases is vested in the circuit courts and county courts.” § 900.03(1), Fla. Stat. (2019).
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 survey results 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 at 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. Contact us for a free consultation. Call 813-250-0500.
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