Okaloosa County Courthouse Annex Extension
1940 Lewis Turner Boulevard, Suite 3-439
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547
DIVISION 4 DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE, POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
Guiding Principle: In all Family Law Cases the needs and best interest of children should be the primary consideration. Therefore, when children are involved use “Mother” and “Father” and not “Former Husband” and “Former Wife”.
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.
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.
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.
With rare exception, timesharing issues are not the proper subject for an emergency hearing. See Somerville v Reusser, 649 So2nd 339.
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 be the other party.
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 total amount of time scheduled for the hearing, (4) ‘TELEPHONE APPEARANCE (If applicable. See below.) (5) 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. (6) “All attorneys and parties should read Judge Brown’s procedures posted at: http://www.firstjudicialcircuit.org/judges/okaloosa-county/john-brown”
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 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 should 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.
All appearances by phone are made through CourtCall. After a hearing has been confirmed by the JA please contact CourtCall at 888-882-6878 or online at www.courtcall.com for information and instructions for making an appearance by phone.
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 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.
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 should be e-mailed to both the preparing attorney/party and the JA.
Whenever possible, do not provide orders with blanks to be filled in the 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.
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 JA 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.
Probate and Guardianship Cases
All proposed orders in Probate and Guardianship cases should be submitted to Probate Eserve at Oka.Probate.Eserve@FLCourts1.gov. In emergency matters, such as proposed orders appointing an Emergency Temporary Guardian, please copy the JA on your email and please type “EMERGENCY MATTER” in both the subject line of your email and in the title of the petition.
The Probate Case Manager, Claire Radon, can be reached at Claire.Radon@FLCourts1.gov or (850) 689-4134.
- Hearings in Probate and Guardianship matters are scheduled with the Judge’s JA, not with the Case Manager; however, please provide a copy of the Notice of Hearing to both the JA and the Case Manager. The notice of hearing should contain the following: (1) title of the motion or petition being heard, (2) The Clerk’s docket number for the motion or petition being heard, (3) The total amount of time scheduled for the hearing, (4) ‘TELEPHONE APPEARANCE (If applicable. See top of page 3 hereof.) (5) 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. (6) “All attorneys and parties should read Judge Brown’s procedures posted at: http://www.firstjudicialcircuit.org/judges/okaloosa-county/john-brown”
- Original Wills should be mailed or hand delivered to the Okaloosa County Clerk’s office and docketed prior to the submission of proposed Orders Admitting the Will to Probate. All pleadings may be efiled.
- Orders on Annual Guardianship Reports should not be submitted until after the audit by the Okaloosa County Clerk’s Inspector General’s office has been docketed.
Guardianship Time Requirements (OCAD 2017-02)
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.
Domestic Violence: Domestic Violence hearing dates are scheduled through Becki Wilson, Unified Family Court Case Manager at Becki.Wilson@flcourts1.gov or 850-689-7329.
Impeaching with a prior inconsistent statement – See Pearce v. State 880 So2nd 561.