IN THE CIRCUIT COURT, SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
IN AND FOR PASCO AND PINELLAS COUNTIES, FLORIDA
ORDER NO. 2005-030 PA/PI-CIR
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RE: SMALL CLAIMS PRETRIAL
HEARINGS AND MEDIATION
By Administrative Orders this Circuit established small
claims pretrial hearings and mediation in both Pasco
and Pinellas Counties for the purpose of providing
more efficient, productive and effective use of the judicial skills of the
county court judges assigned to hear and decide civil actions within the
jurisdiction of such courts. The fee for small claims pretrial mediators
has not increased since at least 1997 and needs updating. Therefore:
In order to set forth a Circuit-wide uniform system for
utilization of hearings officers and pretrial mediators in small claims
In order to ensure the timely setting of pretrial
conferences pursuant to the provisions of Fla.
In order to update the compensation for small claims
pretrial mediators and merge the two County Administrative Orders into one
consistent program; it is hereby
A. Small Claims Pretrial Hearing Officer
1. The establishment of the small claims
pretrial hearing officer position is affirmed.
2. The small claims pretrial hearing officer is
authorized and empowered to conduct and preside over pretrial calendars in
place of the county court judge.
3. The hearing officer shall have no authority
to decide disputed questions of law or fact, but is hereby authorized and
empowered to perform all of the ministerial acts appurtenant to the conduct of
pretrial conferences. Where a motion is made by a litigant or by
counsel that requires the attention of a judge, the hearing officer shall refer
the matter to the duty judge; or, in Pasco
County, to the County
B. Small Claims Pretrial Hearings
a. When filed, all small claims cases shall be
assigned to a general small claims section, either Clearwater
Petersburg, on a master calendar. Small claims pretrial hearings shall be held
in a Clearwater and St. Petersburg
facility to which a county court judge shall be assigned as duty judge. The duty
judge shall be responsible for:
i. Disposition of any motions, including motions
for continuance, to be heard prior to or at pretrial.
ii. Disposition of all after-court work emanating
from small claims pretrial hearings with the exception of orders setting trial.
iii. Disposition of any post-judgment motions or
proceedings in any case in which that judge sat as pretrial calendar judge.
b. Any case that must be set for trial from
pretrial shall be assigned by the pretrial hearing officer in rotation to the
county court judges, either Clearwater or St.
Petersburg, as applicable.
c. In any cause coming for pretrial before a
hearing officer in which the hearing officer determines, after consultation
with the parties, that the pretrial conference should be conducted on a later
date, the hearing officer is authorized and directed to issue a Notice of
Pretrial Conference Decision based thereon. The Clerk of Court shall then reset the
pretrial conference as appropriate. However, the hearing officer may not continue
any pretrial hearing in which an objection to such continuance is presented to
the hearing officer; in such cases, the decision to continue a pretrial
conference shall be made by the assigned duty judge.
d. Any case that is continued for another
pretrial date after a pretrial conference shall remain assigned to the master
calendar section. All cases that are disposed of through
dismissal, judgment, default, or stipulation, shall be assigned to the small
claims section of the duty judge. After a pretrial conference, cases that were
assigned to a section at pretrial may be set for trial by the hearing officer.
e. In any small claims action filed in which the
petitioner, in writing, either requests a specific pretrial date or specifies a
date or dates upon which petitioner or counsel will not be available for
pretrial, the clerk shall attempt to accommodate such requests. In the
event that accommodating a request of the petitioner or counsel results in
scheduling the pretrial beyond the fifty (50) day standard established by Fla. Sm. Cl. R. 7.090(b), said written request shall be deemed a
waiver of the time standard.
County: If held, small claims pretrial hearings
before a hearing officer shall be conducted in accordance the direction of the Pasco
County Administrative County Judge.
C. Small Claims Pretrial Mediation:
1. The pretrial hearing officer shall make every
effort to assist the parties in settling
the controversy by
conciliation or compromise.
2. The hearing officer, at the officer’s
discretion, may refer a matter to mediation.
Certified County Mediators
shall be available at the pretrial hearings to mediate any matters referred by
the hearing officer.
3. Certified County Mediators under contract
with the Sixth Judicial Circuit and providing services pursuant to this
Administrative Order shall be compensated at a rate of $22.00 per hour. The compensation for small claims pretrial
mediators provided in this Administrative Order controls over the rate stated
in Administrative Order No. 2005-005