M.C. Blanchard Judicial Building
190 Governmental Center
Pensacola, FL 32502
This division of the County Court handles all Small Claims cases, landlord/tenant evictions and Unlawful Detainer cases.
General Information: Pandemic Update – July 15, 2020
Due to the Corona Virus Pandemic, our courthouse is closed to all in-person civil hearings. It is unlikely that civil cases will be handled in an open courtroom for the rest of the year. All hearings and trials are being conducted via ZOOM. As a result, and due to an Order entered by the Florida Supreme Court, all civil jury trials have been cancelled for the foreseeable future. Bench trials and other hearings are being conducted over ZOOM.
We no longer have paper files so please make sure that any paperwork you file with the Clerk of Court includes your email address and a phone number where you can be reached during business hours. If you have the opposing parties email address and/or phone number, please include that information on your paperwork as well. Hearings are scheduled via email correspondence so make sure you monitor your email during the pendency of your case.
If you need to contact our office, you should send us an email. You must copy the other party with any email you send to our office. Our email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org . We answer our phones between 8:30 and 4:30 Monday through Friday. Our number is 850-595-4424. Please make sure to include your case number any time you send us an email or leave a phone message.
We cannot give you legal advice. Most persons filing Small Claims cases do not have an attorney so you may not understand that you cannot call and talk directly with the Judge. A Judge is not allowed to talk with parties in a case outside of the courtroom setting and then, only with both parties present. If you need legal help with your case, you must contact an attorney.
ZOOM MEETING INFORMATION:
You can join the ZOOM hearing from your computer, your iPad or your telephone. Please remember to put your device on “mute” until the Judge asks you to speak to avoid “feedback” and permit all parties to be heard clearly. You will be in a virtual waiting room until the exact time of your hearing or trial. The court will convene at the appointed time bringing you out of the “waiting room” and into the “courtroom.” It is your responsibility to be available at the appointed time and ready to join the ZOOM hearing. You should log into the ZOOM meeting about 10 minutes before the scheduled time for your hearing. It is very important that you are on time and available in the ZOOM waiting room for your hearing. If you are not present at the time of your hearing or trial, the case will be handled without you and your input.
If you have written materials, photographs or other documents that you wish to have the court consider as evidence in your case, you must file the paperwork with the Clerk of Court by mail or e-portal so that is received at least 24 hours before your scheduled hearing or trial. You must also send a copy to the other party in the case so that it is received at least 24 hours prior to the scheduled hearing or trial by mail or email.
FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT ZOOM HERAINGS PLEASE VISIT OUR WEBSITE:
We work very hard to coordinate convenient times for hearings with all interested parties. If we cannot reach you by phone and you do not respond to our email request to set a hearing, we will go ahead and set a time and you will receive a Hearing Notice without having the opportunity to participate in scheduling. We have a very large docket and are unable to make repeated attempts to coordinate with unresponsive or uncooperative parties.
As with all other cases, evictions are being handled via ZOOM hearings. Once the tenant files a written Answer to the lawsuit with the Clerk of Court, a preliminary hearing is scheduled. It is very important that we have an email address for both the landlord and tenant. Please include this information on your Complaint and also with your written Answer. The preliminary hearing, known as a Determine Rent Hearing, is scheduled within a week of receiving the Answer filed by the tenant. At the Determine Rent Hearing, the court will inform the tenant of their options going forward with the case. If the tenant wishes to go to trial to fight the eviction, the tenant MUST deposit any past due rent with the Clerk of Court the same day as the Determine Rent Hearing. The deposit must be made by calling the Clerk of Court at 850-595-4170 and providing a debit or credit card number. If you do not have a credit or debit card, you must “wire transfer” the money to the Clerk of Court from your bank or a company like Western Union. If the money is not received by the Clerk of Court the same day as the hearing, a Default will be entered and the eviction is automatically granted. That is, if the past due rent in not deposited with the Clerk of Court, the tenant loses the right to fight the eviction.
If you are a landlord, you must contact the Clerk of Court at 8:30 am, the day after your Determine Rent Hearing, to find out if the tenant deposited the money and, as a result, if you are required to attend the final hearing (trial). If the money was not deposited, as required, the landlord should send an email to the court at email@example.com to verify that the tenant did not deposit the money and did not return the keys, voluntarily vacating the property. If the tenant did not move, the landlord should request a Final Judgment so that the Clerk of Court can issue the Writ and proceed with the eviction. The landlord must send an email requesting the Final Judgment to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the email, the landlord must certify that their tenant has not given them a CDC Declaration Affidavit. If the tenant has given the landlord a CDC Declaration Affidavit, the landlord must inform the court in the email requesting the Final Judgment. Without this information, the court cannot proceed with the eviction.
Please be aware that that the Clerk of Court cannot issue a Writ and proceed with an eviction on a Three Day Notice (eviction for non-payment of rent) until the governor lifts the Stay which prohibits evictions based solely on the tenant’s failure to pay rent. The only Writs being issued at this time are based on Seven Day Notices for Cause and/or Fifteen day Notices terminating a verbal rental agreement or non-renewals of written Leases. Please visit the governor’s website for updates on which evictions are on hold and which can proceed at this time.
SMALL CLAIMS PRETRIAL CONFERENCES:
There are two types of Small Claims cases. The first type of Small Claims cases are those cases where a person is suing another person or local business or a local business is suing a person. This type of Small Claims case requires the parties to attempt to “mediate” the case with the help of a Supreme Court Certified Mediator prior to proceeding with the court. If you filed a Small Claims case like this, you will receive a Notice to attend a telephonic mediation. The mediator will contact you via a conference call and attempt to help the parties reach an agreement without having to go to trial. If you reach an agreement, the mediator will prepare a written agreement for both parties to sign and the case will be dismissed once the conditions are completed. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the case will proceed to a ZOOM Pretrial Conference. The date and time of the ZOOM Pretrial Conference is detailed in the Summons.
The second type Small Claims case typically involves an attorney representing a company which filed a lawsuit to recover on a delinquent credit card account or loan or medical bill, or even for a motor vehicle collision where the defendant’s car was not insured at the time of the accident. This is a partial list of types of cases filed by an attorney. These cases do not start with a mediation. They proceed directly to a ZOOM Pretrial Conference. At the hearing, the court will address your case and attempt to help the parties resolve the case without having to go to trial. As the defendant, or person being sued, you are entitled to enter into a court-ordered payment plan if you are able to make a sufficient monthly payment to pay off the old debt. If you make your monthly payments, your case will be dismissed. If you agree that the case is based on your old account or debt, but you are unable to set up a monthly payment at this time, the court can enter a Final Judgment. If a Final Judgment is entered against you, the plaintiff is entitled to have you update your information for them. This is typically done by having you complete a “Fact Information Sheet.” If you receive a Fact Information Sheet, you must complete it and return it with all required documents to the plaintiff within 45 days. If you are asked to complete a Fact Information Sheet, please understand that this is mandatory and there are legal consequences if you fail to complete the form and return it. Finally, if you have a legally sufficient defense to the lawsuit, the court will set a ZOOM final hearing (trial) about sixty days out, giving you sufficient time to gather your evidence/witnesses and perhaps talk with the other side to try to resolve the case.
Bench trials (Final Hearings) are normally set to begin on ZOOM at 1:30 pm and you are required to submit any evidence you wish to have considered by the court at trial by sending it to the Clerk of Court and the other party by mail and/or email or by filing it on the e-portal so that it is received at least 24 hours prior to the scheduled hearing date. Remember to log into ZOOM about 10 minutes early and be ready to proceed on time.
We have been paperless since May, 2016. We do not accept proposed ordered or judgments by mail. All proposed orders and judgments must be submitted to email@example.com . The proposed order or judgment must be in Word and should be in a format that can be easily edited by the court. Please include the parties’ addresses in the style of the case because we will be sending copies to the parties by email and where an email is not available, by using a window envelope.
The quickest and easiest way to set a hearing is to send an email to the court copying all parties, to firstname.lastname@example.org . Attach a copy of the motion if applicable. Please remember that we have no way of knowing that you filed a motion with the Clerk of Court. You must contact us to set a hearing on your motion. The Clerk of Court will not notify us that you need a hearing because you filed a motion.
All hearings will be conducted via ZOOM and you can attend through your computer, iPad or telephone. Once a hearing is scheduled, you cannot add additional motions or other matters to the hearing without written confirmation form the court’s JA that there is sufficient time reserved.