Tenth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida
The Tenth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida is a Circuit Court comprising Hardee, Highlands, and Polk Counties in Central Florida. The Tenth Judicial Circuit was established in 1911 and took its current boundaries in 1921. It consists of five divisions—Civil, Criminal (Felony), Family, Juvenile, and Probate Courts—operating in five courthouses. The Tenth Judicial Circuit is currently led by Chief Judge William Bruce Smith.
The Tenth Judicial Circuit was created, along with the Ninth and Eleventh Judicial Circuits, by the addition of Chapter 6197, No.78[a] to the Florida Constitution by the Florida Legislature in May 1911, passed over a veto by the governor.:23 The previous year, a new Florida constitutional amendment passed by voters gave the Florida Legislature the authority to create judicial circuits as it deemed advisable.
The governor in 1911, DeSoto County native Albert Gilchrist,:20 was supportive of a plan to create five new judicial circuits, in which Polk County would be part of the Eleventh Circuit along with Orange and Osceola Counties while DeSoto, Manatee, and Lee Counties would form the Twelfth Circuit.:22 However, Florida Senate president Fred Cone saw the five new districts as too much for Central and South Florida and the Florida Legislature passed a bill to create just three new judicial districts. The bill was promptly vetoed by Gov. Gilchrist, but the veto was overridden by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate, and became law on 27 May 1911; the Tenth Judicial Circuit came into being on 10 June 1911.:22–23 The district was defined: "The tenth judicial circuit shall be composed of the counties of Polk, Manatee, DeSoto, and Lee". At the time, DeDoto County included all of present-day DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Glades, and Charlotte Counties;:23 Manatee County included present-day Sarasota County; and Lee County included present-day Lee, Hendry, and Collier Counties.
Manatee County was removed from the Tenth Judicial Circuit in 1915 and Lee County was removed in 1919.:24 In 1921, DeSoto County split into five counties;:23 after which point the Tenth Judicial Circuit took its current boundaries, consisting of Polk, Hardee, and Highlands Counties.:24
The Tenth Judicial Circuit operates from five courthouses: the Hardee County Courthouse in Wauchula; the Highlands County Courthouse in Sebring; the Polk County Courthouse in Bartow; and branches in Lakeland and Winter Haven.
The Tenth Judicial Circuit has five divisions—Civil, Criminal (Felony), Family, Juvenile, and Probate—which are under the auspices of an administrative judge, appointed by the chief judge. The Tenth Judicial Circuit is currently led by Chief Judge William Bruce Smith.
The Civil Court division has jurisdiction in civil cases (ie. non-criminal litigation) which involve matters over $15,000. Current judges within the Civil Court division are Mark F. Carpanini, Wayne M. Durden, Mark Hofstad, John Radabaugh, and Keith Spoto.
The Criminal Court division has jurisdiction over felony criminal cases, except those committed by juveniles (under 18 years old). Current judges within the Criminal Court division are Roger A. Alcott, Catherine L. Combee, Charles B. Curry, Donald G. Jacobsen, Reinaldo Ojeda, Michael E. Raiden, Glenn T. Shelby, and John K. Stargel.
The Family Court division has jurisdiction over domestic matters, which includes divorce proceedings, child custody, paternity, adoption, child support, visitation, and domestic violence injunctions. Current judges within the Family Court division are J. Kevin Abdoney, Jalal Harb, Steven L. Selph, William Sites, and Andrea T. Smith.
The Juvenile Court division has jurisdiction over criminal cases committed by juveniles (under 18 years old) as well as cases involving child abuse or neglect. Current judges within the Family Court division are J. Michael McCarthy, Neil Roddenbery, and James A. Yancey.
The Probate Court division oversees the administration of wills, the administration of estates and trusts, and incompetency hearings arising under the Florida Mental Health Act (also known as the "Baker Act"). Judge Ellen S. Masters handles cases within the Probate division.
The Highlands County Circuit consists of judges Angela J. Cowden, J. Dale Durrance, Olin W. Shinholser, and Peter F. Estrada.
Marcus J. Ezelle is the sole judge in the Hardee County circuit.
Non-judicial programs and services
The Tenth Judicial Circuit provides family mediation services through Florida Supreme Court certified mediators. Court-connected mediation and arbitration services are among "essential" services to which litigants are entitled, due to a 2004 amendment to the state constitution.
Teen Court is a program for juvenile offenders, with no or only a minor criminal history, to have their cases heard by local high school students, who are trained to perform the duties of defense attorney, prosecutor, clerk, and bailiff. The juvenile offender must admit guilt and agree to the sentence given by their peers. The proceeding, presided over by a Circuit Court judge, allows the offender to bypass the Juvenile Court, eliminating or minimizing their criminal record and decreasing the workload and expense associated with the Juvenile Court division. The program in Polk County, established in 1990 by Circuit Judge J. Dale Durrance, was the second such program in Florida, modeled after a similar one in Sarasota County.
- Florida Judicial Circuits are now defined in Title V, Chapter 26, Florida Statutes
- "Trial Courts - Circuit". Floridacourts.org. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
- "2012 Florida Statutes- Chapter 26". The Florida Senate. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
- General Acts and Resolutions Adopted by the Legislature of Florida. Tallahassee: State of Florida. 1911. pp. 143&ndash, 146.
- "Tenth Judicial Circuit's Centennial 1911–2011: History of the Tenth Judicial Circuit" (PDF). 10 February 2011. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
- Muir, Tom. "History" (PDF). Florida's Tenth Judicial Circuit. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
- "Part one map of Florida". Florida Memory. State Road Department of Florida. 1917. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
- "1920 Florida Map". Florida's Tenth Judicial Circuit. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
- "Florida's 10th Judicial Circuit". Florida's 10th Judicial Circuit. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
- "Hardee County Courthouse". Courthouses of Florida. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
- "Highlands County Courthouse". Courthouses of Florida. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
- "Locations & Hours of Operation". Polk County Clerk of Courts. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
- "Circuit Court Judges". Florida's Tenth Judicial Circuit. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
- "Divisions". Florida's Tenth Judicial Circuit. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
- "Family Mediation Services". Retrieved 10 January 2015.
- "Mediation in Florida". Floridacourts.org. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
- Barbosa, Susan (27 August 1999). "Teen Court Volunteers Say They Learn as Much as Defendants". Lakeland Ledger. p. A8. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
- "Teen Court". Florida's Tenth Judicial Circuit. Retrieved 10 January 2015.