Okaloosa County Courthouse Annex Extension
1940 Lewis Turner Boulevard, Suite 3-439
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547
Date: Revised June, 2022
DIVISION 2 POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
This is intended as a brief overview of preferences regarding hearings and procedural matters. Your adherence to these preferences will be greatly appreciated and will make our Division one which runs more smoothly and efficiently for all of us. Thank you for taking the time to read these policies and procedures.
The Code of Judicial Conduct (“Code”) precludes Judicial Assistants (“JA”) from making substantive inquires of the Judge on behalf of any attorney or party involved in any action. The Code prohibits all judges from considering ex parte (one side only) communications.
Other than scheduling, Judge Brown nor his JA will discuss any case with any party outside of a hearing. Therefore, the JA cannot take a message from a party or other person intended for Judge Brown.
JA’s are not able to provide legal advice to anyone. “Legal advice” means suggesting things that might be filed, evaluating the sufficiency of information on a form, interpretation of any document, evaluating the conduct of an opposing party or lawyer, or giving an opinion about the likelihood of success in an action. JA’s may assist with scheduling of hearings on motions or petitions which have previously been filed with the Clerk of Court (“Clerk”) only.
Any issue to be considered by the Court should be in the form of a motion or petition filed with the Clerk with copies provided to all parties of record. The Okaloosa County Clerk of Court’s website is: http://www.okaloosaclerk.com. It is the responsibility of the petitioning or moving party to coordinate a hearing with all counsel/parties of record and to provide proper notice to all. Merely filing a petition or motion with the Clerk will not bring the matter before the Court.
Petitions or motions received at the Judge’s office via e-mail, or any other means, are not considered “filed” and will not be processed until properly filed with the Clerk.
With the exception of submitting proposed orders, all email should be sent to Judge Brown’s Judicial Assistant, Donna at: Donna.Fought@flcourts1.gov.
Due to the high call volume, your call may go directly to voicemail. Please be patient. Your call will be returned at the JA’s earliest opportunity. Please do not leave multiple, repetitive and lengthy messages.
Pro Se Pleadings and Correspondence
Anyone not represented by an attorney is considered “pro se”. Any pro se pleadings or correspondence sent to Judge Brown must be provided to all parties involved in the case so as to prevent any ex parte (one sided) communications.
If a Party is represented by an attorney, all pleadings must be filed by that attorney.
No Party or relative, friend, etc. is permitted to have a private telephone conversation with the Judge in reference to any open or closed case.
Pro se litigants may find the following resources useful:
Procedures for Scheduling/Cancelling Hearings
As stated above, the Clerk does not provide the Judge’s office with a copy of a motion filed with the Clerk. It is the responsibility of the moving party to coordinate a hearing with all counsel/parties of record and to provide proper notice to all. THE PARTY REQUESTING THE HEARING SHALL FILE A WRITTEN NOTICE OF HEARING.
All matters to be considered by a judge should be in the form of a motion filed with the Clerk of Court with copies provided to all parties of record. It is the responsibility of the moving party to set the motion for hearing and to coordinate that hearing with the judge’s office and all counsel of record. Merely filing a motion with the Clerk will not bring the matter before the Judge.
Prior to contacting the JA to schedule a hearing, the motion must be filed with the Clerk. If you are requesting an “emergency” hearing you must first contact the JA and email the “emergency” motion to the JA. Opposing counsel, if any, should be provided the Motion before contacting the JA.
Take a moment to organize your thoughts and have the pertinent file in front of you before scheduling a hearing. When calling to schedule a hearing, please have all the information needed, such as the case number, case style, motion and it’s docket number and the amount of time needed for the hearing. Do not guess. Judge Brown strictly adheres to the amount of time requested. Each side has half of the scheduled hearing time and although the Judge may use a chess clock, it is each party’s obligation to keep track of that party’s time. If counsel is speaking or a witness is speaking after a counsel’s/party’s question, then the questioning counsel’s/party’s time is running.
A hearing may not be necessary if the granting of the motion is stipulated to by all parties.
Before any motion is filed, the moving attorney must certify in that motion that he/she has tried to resolve the matter and attach the e-mails evidencing same.
When calling to schedule hearings, all attorneys or office staff who have the authority to schedule hearings must be on the phone. Please let the JA know if you are aware of any security issues or special needs for the hearing. You may also coordinate the scheduling of a hearing via email to the JA at Donna.firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the same information as above, but also add the name of all of the attorneys and who they represent. You must copy (“cc”) all opposing counsel on this email.
After the hearing has been scheduled through the JA, please provide the JA with a courtesy copy of the Notice of Hearing by E-mail. A courtesy copy of the motion being heard does not need to be sent with the Notice of Hearing because the Motion should already be filed with the Clerk and the Notice of Hearing should contain the following: (1) the exact title of the motion or petition being heard, (2) The Clerk’s docket number for the motion or petition being heard, (3) the date, time (Central Time) and location of the hearing (4) The total amount of time scheduled for the hearing, (5) If a response to the motion has been filed, include the title of the response and the filing date. (6)‘TELEPHONE APPEARANCE (If applicable. See below.) (7) If that filing is not made with the Clerk at least three (3) business days before the scheduled hearing date, also attach that filing when e-mailing the JA and opposing party. (8) A certificate of Service listing the name, address, and email address of all opposing counsel and pro se parties (9) the required ADA notice pursuant to Administrative Order 2015-32
Unless otherwise provided by law or another rule of procedure, minor children who are witnesses, potential witnesses, or related to a family law case, are prohibited from COMING TO THE Courthouse or attending any family law proceedings without prior order of the court based on good cause shown.
Immediately notify the JA by telephone and e-mail when a hearing is to be cancelled and should be removed from the Court’s docket. Please then file with the Clerk a Notice of Cancellation of Hearing. Only the attorney who scheduled the hearing has the authority to cancel the hearing.
If the hearing was scheduled by Court Order, the hearing shall not be canceled or continued except by an e-mail from the JA.
If a case has been set for a hearing by you and you are requesting additional motions to be heard at your previously scheduled hearing (a/k/a piggy backing motions), prior to noticing these additional motions for hearing, you must contact the JA who will determine if sufficient time is available to have the additional motion(s) heard. You will then be directed to follow the procedures to schedule the additional motion(s) for hearing. If you are not the party who initially scheduled the hearing on the motion, you must obtain the consent from the opposing party after confirming with the JA that there is time available to hear this additional motion.
Telephone appearances by attorneys are allowed and require no motion or order if the hearing is fifteen minutes or less and is not an evidentiary hearing or a non-jury trial. You must notify the JA of the telephonic appearance at the time you schedule the hearing and state: “TELEPHONE APPEARANCE” in said Notice of Hearing.
Procedures for Dismissal
Final dispositions, settlements and closing reopened cases.
The Florida Rules of Civil Procedure require a final disposition form shall be filed with the Clerk by the prevailing party at the time of the filing of the order or judgment which disposes of the action. If the action is dismissed by the parties or settled without a court order or judgment being entered, the plaintiff or petitioner immediately shall file a final disposition form with the Clerk.
When an action is settled and the terms of the settlement provide that the court will retain jurisdiction to enter a final judgment upon failure of the settlement terms, the case should nevertheless be closed with the Court retaining jurisdiction to enforce the settlement. This may be accomplished by providing an Order adopting the settlement (attaching a copy thereof), reserving jurisdiction and directing the Clerk to close the case.. A final disposition form must be provided with the proposed order adopting the settlement. The instructions to the final disposition form provide: “(J) Disposed by Judge – a judgment or disposition is reached by the judge in a case that is not dismissed and in which no trial has been held. Includes stipulations by parties, conditional judgment … and any matter in which a judgment is entered excluding cases disposed of by default…”
After a case is closed, there are many filings which “re-open” the case (e.g. Motions to Compel Fact Information Sheets, Motions for Writs of Possession, Motions for Writs of Garnishment, and Motion to Reschedule Foreclosure Sales). Reopened cases must be closed after the disposition of the matter that re-opened the case. All orders disposing of matters that reopened a case must contain the following, or substantially similar language. “This disposes of all pending matters. The Clerk is directed to close the file.”
The court may return, unexecuted, proposed orders disposing of actions when a final disposition form is not provided with the proposed order.
Motions for Summary Judgment
Before a Motion for Summary Judgment will be set for a hearing, the Motion and original documents must be filed with the Clerk. Once the Motion and original documents have been filed, please e-mail the Judicial Assistant with your request for a hearing. Typically, these hearings can be set 30-60 days from the date of your request. Once the date is set, Counsel must e-file a Notice of Hearing. If Counsel wishes to appear by telephone, then such request and proposed order must be filed within 10 days of the hearing. The Court will ten make a determination whether counsel may appear by telephone. If counsel is appearing by telephone a proposed Final Judgment needs to be e-filed with the Clerk fo Court as least 5 days before the hearing.
Non-Jury Trials for Foreclosures
If Counsel needs to schedule a non-jury trial for a foreclosure, a Notice for Trial must be filed with the Clerk of Court before a trial date is set. Once a Notice for Trial is filed, any opposing party has 5 days to object to whether the action is at issue. (Rule 1.44” are not appropriate objections under Rule 1.440. These types of objections are more appropriately raised in a Motion to Continue Trial. Once a trial date is scheduled, Counsel must e-file a proposed Order of Trial giving the date, time, duration and location of the trial. If a party is not on the e-portal list, Counsel needs to send a copy of the signed Order under the standard service rules. Counsel must appear in person for a non-jury foreclosure trial. The original documents and proposed Final Judgments do not need to be filed before the trial and can be presented the day of the trial.
Motions in Limine
Before scheduling a hearing on a motion in limine, the attorney filing the motion must consult with opposing counsel/parties and attempt to stipulate to some or all of the contents of the motion in limine prior to contacting the Judge’s office to schedule a hearing. All Notices of Hearings on motions in limine must state: “The undersigned attorney has consulted with opposing counsel concerning each matter in the Motion in Limine referenced in this notice and opposing counsel stipulates to the following paragraphs: _______.” If there are no stipulations after consultation, simply write “none”.
Procedures for Motions to Withdraw or for Substitution of Counsel
If you wish to withdraw from representing a client, you must fulfill Judicial Admin. Rule 2.505(f)(1) which requires either the written consent of the client or a hearing thereon and requires you to include the address, telephone number and email address of the client for service purposes in both the motion and in the proposed Order allowing you to withdraw.
If you wish to be substituted as counsel for a Party, Rule 2.505(e)(2) requires the motion to be signed by both the withdrawing and the substituting attorney and the client.
ALL PROPOSED ORDERS MUST BE SUBMITTED THROUGH THE PORTAL.
When preparing a proposed order subsequent to a hearing, no later than five (5) business days after the hearing an advance MS Word draft copy should be provided to the opposing party prior to its submission to the Court to determine whether there is an objection. If the opposing party does not agree, no later than eight (8) days after the hearing a red-line in MS Word should be e-mailed to both the preparing attorney/party and submitted to the Court through the portal.
Whenever possible, do not provide orders with blanks to be filled in by the Judge.
Avoid using “Order”, etc. without a description of the purpose (Example: Order on Petitioner’s Request for Leave to Amend).
If an order submitted is an emergency or time sensitive, provide in your cover email the reason(s) it is an emergency and put “URGENT” or “TIME SENSITIVE” in the subject line.
In all proposed orders or judgments, please make the page break so that the signature page does not contain only the “Done and Ordered” portion and Judge’s signature line. Adjust pages so that some content of the ruling is on the signature page.
Please do not submit a proposed order to the Court until all parties have reviewed and approved the proposed order. Please do not send proposed orders that have not been reviewed by opposing counsel.
Judge Brown reviews and signs incoming proposed orders daily, unless he is out of the office. If he has an issue with a submission you will be promptly notified.
If you have not received an email from the Clerk containing the signed order within 10 days of submission, always check the Clerk’s website at http://www.okaloosaclerk.com first and if the docket does not reflect the order in question, then please call the JA to inquire. Do not submit a replacement of the order without permission from the Judge.
All proposed orders submitted to the Court shall be submitted in Word with the case name/style; case number; and title of the order specified in the subject line and must comply with Administrative Directive OCAD2016-04 (OCAD2016-04 can be found here. ) and contain the following language:
Pursuant to Administrative Directive OCAD2016-04, in cases wherein one party is unrepresented (pro se), it is the responsibility of the sole attorney in the case to serve within five business days, this order or judgment upon any pro se party who does not have access to nor is a registered user of the Florida Courts e-filing Portal.
In cases with one pro se party, the attorney in the case shall have the responsibility to serve the pro se petitioner or pro se respondent copies of any orders received from the courts via the Florida Courts e-Filing Portal. The attorney shall prepare and file a Certificate of Compliance within five business days as proof of the attorney’s service upon the pro se litigant(s).
In cases wherein both parties are pro se, the Clerk shall have the responsibility to serve copies of any orders on the pro se litigant(s), and shall file a Certificate of Compliance as proof of service within five business days.
Proposed Orders must include the names and e-mail addresses of all parties who will need to receive e-service of the Court’s Order.
In the final section of the Proposed Order, please write “DONE AND ORDERED in Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa County, Florida.” With sufficient space below for the Judge’s e-signature. Please do not write the date that it is done and ordered, as the date will be automatically included in the e-signature. See example below:
DONE AND ORDERED in Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa County, Florida.
HONORABLE JOHN T. BROWN
Orders to Show Cause
The following language must be included in any Order to Show Cause:
FAILURE TO APPEAR AT THE HEARING MAY RESULT IN THE COURT ISSUING A WRIT OF BODILY ATTACHMENT FOR YOUR ARREST. IF YOU ARE ARRESTED YOU MAY BE HELD IN JAIL UP TO 48 HOURS BEFORE A HEARING IS HELD.
Mailing/E-mailing/Hand Delivering of “Courtesy Copies”
If you wish to provide this Court with a hard courtesy copy of Motions, Memoranda and/or Trial Notebooks for a hearing which has already been scheduled, please do so at least five (5) business days before the hearing. If those hard courtesy copies contain anything that has not previously been filed with the Clerk, you must provide them to all other attorneys at the same time in the same manner.
Impeaching with a prior inconsistent statement – See Pearce v. State 880 So2nd 561.
If you intend to rely on exhibits for this hearing, please file your Proposed Exhibits with the Clerk of Court five (5) business days prior to the hearing and provide a copy of same to all pro se parties via email or otherwise and prior to the hearing file proof of same with the Clerk.
All exhibits and demonstrative aids shall contain the following:
- Page numbers
- Pre-marked by the party offering same.
- Petitioner(s) shall use numbers.
- Respondent(s) shall use letters.
Five (5) business days before the hearing, an Index of Proposed Exhibits shall be sent to all parties and to email@example.com . Judge Brown will then utilize the Index of Exhibits to maneuver through the court file while viewing exhibits and determining whether they will be admitted. If admitted, he will mark on the Index and I will file with the clerk a list of the admitted exhibits.
When you are called to the podium, have your case ready to go:
If it is a plea, have it already signed by both your client and the State and have all the terms in the written plea agreement such as: $100.00 VOP; $150.00 Public Defender fee; guilty or withhold; Defendant will remain in jail until a bed is available at Keaton; and that Defendant has been pre-approved for Keaton, etc.
If it is not a plea, know what you are asking the Court to do and state that initially. Have your motions (including, but not limited to, motions for continuance, and other motions) filed with the Clerk no later than four (4) business days prior to the date on which that matter shall be heard. This shall allow the Judge sufficient time to review and consider your motions prior to the hearing and also shall be on the Clerk’s site.
Schedule, cancel, and re-schedule your criminal hearings only with the Clerk, not with the JA.
When you or your legal assistant seek to schedule a hearing for 1:30 p.m. with the Clerk, know how much time you will need for that hearing because that shall allow the Clerk to better plan the hearings for that afternoon. If you do not know the amount of time, the Clerk may not schedule your hearing until you call back with the estimated time.
If you are going to cancel a hearing, please do it immediately so that time may be used by others. In all events, cancel the hearing with the Clerk in writing five (5) working days before the hearing date to prevent the Defendant from being transported.
Unless you are actually in a hearing at the time your name is called, your case may be re-called after all of the Public Defenders cases are called and completed.
All score sheets, PSIs, recommendation letters, and sentencing materials must be provided directly to the Judge’s chambers as least three (3) business days before the sentencing date.
If you are going to plea to additional case(s) not on the docket, let the Clerk know three (3) business days before the hearing date so she can review the file and be prepared. Make sure you account for every count and identify what sentence for each count. (i.e. if 3rd and 2nd degree felony and 7 years DOC, what time for each count, etc.)
Make sure the amended information agrees with the charges set forth in the plea agreement. Check the counts and degrees in the plea with the information/amended information and the score sheet. These must all be consistent.
Proposed Orders on Motions for Continuance must contain the following three (3) dates: pretrial conference (9:00 a.m.); docket day (9:00 a.m.); and trial date (8:30 a.m.).
Court costs need to be correct. The Clerk is not responsible for knowing what costs go with particular cases, especially drug/trafficking, battery, sexual offenses, and DUI’s. All fines have a 5% surcharge.
Don’t use “Stipulated” Order unless both attorneys agree and have signed or initialed their consent thereto.
Unless in a plea, Orders Establishing Restitution shall not be signed by the Judge without a writing evidencing both parties’ stipulation or after a hearing therefore.
All attorneys are expected to have concluded any discussions with clients, victims, or witnesses prior to being in court, and criminal plea negotiations should also occur prior to coming to court. If any plea negotiations must be made the day of court, the parties should excuse themselves from the courtroom to prevent disruption of court proceedings.
If you wish to withdraw from representing a defendant, you must fulfill Judicial Admin. Rule 2.505(f)(1) which requires either the written consent of the defendant or a hearing thereon and requires you to include the address, telephone number and email address of the defendant for service purposes in the proposed Order allowing you to withdraw.
If you wish to be substituted as counsel for the defendant, Rule 2.505(e)(2) requires the motion to be signed by both the withdrawing and the substituting attorney and the defendant.
Use form written plea agreements for new cases and VOP specific plea agreements. (Ask Donna, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, to e-mail you the form if you do not have it.)
On all plea agreements (including VOP’s) state any applicable statutory minimum mandatory sentences.
If you are seeking for the Defendant to go to Keaton, Phoenix House, Drug Court, etc., do your homework before the day of the plea or sentencing and have the Defendant pre-qualified to attend that program. Otherwise, the Court may not consider those programs an option.
All criminal dockets for this Division shall be closed after 5:00 p.m. on the 5th business day prior to the subject hearing date. No changes shall be made to said docket thereafter unless: both the State and Defense attorney have provided the Clerk with a prior writing (an email is acceptable) consenting to an addition being made to the docket for the hearing to be held within said five (5) business days and thereafter the Clerk provides both the State Attorney and the Defense Attorney with a writing (an email is acceptable) consenting to said addition being placed on said docket. Thereafter, one of the attorneys shall immediately file a notice of said hearing with the Clerk.