Northern District of Florida
Introduction to the Northern District of Florida
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida is a federal court with jurisdiction over the northern counties of Florida. It was established in 1847 and hears cases involving federal law. The Northern District of Florida spans a large geographical area and plays an important role in the administration of justice in the region.
The Northern District of Florida encompasses the northern part of Florida. It includes 23 counties in total: Alachua, Bay, Calhoun, Dixie, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Lafayette, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Taylor, Wakulla, Walton, and Washington. The district covers a vast area from the state capital of Tallahassee in the east to Pensacola in the west.
List of Counties
As mentioned above, the Northern District of Florida includes the following 23 counties:
- Santa Rosa
The Northern District of Florida has courthouses located in Tallahassee, Gainesville, Marianna, Panama City, and Pensacola.
United States Courthouse Annex
The main courthouse for the district is the United States Courthouse Annex located in Tallahassee. This courthouse, which opened in 2015, has over 232,000 square feet of space and contains seven courtrooms along with judges’ chambers and other court offices. It serves as the base of operations for the district.
History and Establishment
The United States Congress established the Northern District of Florida on February 23, 1847. It was created from portions of the Eastern and Western Districts of Florida. The district has evolved over the years along with the population growth in northern Florida.
The U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Florida is Greg Leljedal. The U.S. Marshal oversees court security and the service of process among other duties.
Address, Phone Number
The main address and phone number for the Northern District of Florida are:
United States Courthouse Annex
111 North Adams Street, Suite 277 Tallahassee, FL 32301-7730 Phone: (850) 404-5400
This is the contact information for the Tallahassee courthouse which serves as the district’s headquarters. The other courthouses in the district have their own contact information as well.
Caseload and Types of Cases
The Northern District of Florida handles a full range of federal cases. This includes civil cases involving claims under federal law, criminal cases prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney, bankruptcy filings, foreclosure cases, social security appeals, and more. The court handles thousands of new cases each year spanning every type of federal legal matter within its jurisdiction.
Civil, Criminal, Bankruptcy, etc.
The specific types of cases handled by the Northern District of Florida include:
- Civil cases involving federal law, civil rights, environmental law, FOIA, and more
- Criminal cases involving federal crimes like drug trafficking, financial fraud, and terrorism
- Bankruptcy cases filed by individuals and businesses
- Foreclosure cases
- Social security appeals
- Prisoner petitions
- Federal tax lawsuits
- Patent and copyright cases
- Admiralty law cases
Judges and Judicial Vacancies
Current Judges, Judicial Vacancies
The Northern District of Florida currently has six district court judges presiding over cases:
- Chief Judge Mark E. Walker
- Judge Robert L. Hinkle
- Judge Allen C. Winsor
- Judge T. Kent Wetherell, II
- Judge Jeffrey C. Lewis
- Judge Frances M. Tydingco-Gatewood
There are no current judicial vacancies on the district court.
Court Operations During COVID-19 and After
Changes to Operations, Remote Hearings
The COVID-19 pandemic required changes to the operations of the Northern District of Florida. At the beginning of the pandemic, jury trials were suspended for several months. The court transitioned to conducting many hearings remotely via video conference and telephone. Some in-person hearings resumed later on, with health precautions in place such as social distancing and mask requirements. Overall, the court adapted its practices to continue handling cases throughout the challenges of the pandemic.
High-Profile Cases Handled
Over the years, the Northern District of Florida has handled several high-profile cases, including:
- U.S. vs. Hameen – A 2018 criminal case against the founder of Habit Opco, Inc. involving wire fraud and money laundering.
- Bank of America vs. Florida 5th Dimension LLC – A 2012 foreclosure case involving a failed development project.
- U.S. vs. Hicks – A 2005 criminal case prosecuting members of the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation.
- NAACP vs. Florida – A 1990 case challenging a redistricting plan as diluting African American voting strength.
The Northern District of Florida plays a key role in upholding justice and the rule of law across its 23-county jurisdiction. As one of the original federal district courts created by Congress, it has a long history dating back to 1847. However, the court continues to evolve and adapt its practices to the modern era, as illustrated by its response to COVID-19. With its wide geographic range, heavy caseload, and mix of urban and rural communities, the Northern District of Florida faces unique challenges and opportunities as it carries out its mission into the future. The judges and staff of the court will need to be flexible and innovative as the district continues to serve the changing needs of northern Florida.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many courthouses does the Northern District of Florida have?
The Northern District of Florida has 5 courthouses located in Tallahassee, Gainesville, Marianna, Panama City, and Pensacola. The Tallahassee courthouse serves as the district’s main headquarters.
What is the smallest county by population in the district?
Liberty County is the least populous county located within the Northern District of Florida with a population of approximately 8,300 residents.
What is the process for becoming a federal judge?
Federal judges are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Potential judges are typically recommended by senators from the President’s party. Qualifications include being a lawyer with substantial legal experience.
When was the Tallahassee courthouse constructed?
The United States Courthouse Annex in Tallahassee was constructed in 2015. It is the newest federal courthouse in the Northern District of Florida.
What would happen if a judge position became vacant?
If a judicial vacancy occurred, the process would start for the President to nominate and the Senate to confirm a new federal judge to that position. Meanwhile, visiting judges could help handle some of the vacated caseload.