Click here for a printer friendly version





            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 actions; and

            In order to ensure the timely setting of pretrial conferences pursuant to the provisions of Fla. Sm. Cl. R. 7.090(b); and

            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 Administrative Judge.


B.         Small Claims Pretrial Hearings


            1.  Pinellas County:

                        a.  When filed, all small claims cases shall be assigned to a general small claims section, either Clearwater or St. 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.


            2.  Pasco 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 PA/PI-CIR. 

D.        Effective Date:  This Administrative Order is effective on July 1, 2005 and applies to small claims hearings and mediations conducted on or after July 1, 2005.  Effective July 1, 2005, Administrative Order No. PI-CTY-97-8 and Administrative Order No.PA-CTY-00-13 are hereby rescinded.


            DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers at St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Florida, this _______day of June, 2005.


David A. Demers, Chief Judge


cc:        All County Judges

            The Honorable Jed Pittman, Clerk of Court, Pasco County

            The Honorable Ken Burke, Clerk of Court, Pinellas County

            Carol Heath, Director, Court Services Division, Pinellas County Clerk’s Office

            Betty Henderson, Assistant Court Services Director, Pasco County Clerk’s Office

            Gay Inskeep, Trial Courts Administrator

            Kerry Rice, Deputy Courts Administrator, Pasco County

            Bar Associations, Pasco and Pinellas Counties

            Law Libraries, Pasco and Pinellas Counties