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Outline of Ninth Circuit History

  • Florida’s early law was administered by circuit riders, a tradition begun in 12th century England by King Henry II.
  • When Spain ceded Florida to the United States in 1821, in a burst of patriotic fervor the first legislators voted to adopt English Common Law as it existed on July 4, 1776.
  • Lawyers and judges rode a pre-determined, often difficult route or circuit to take justice to the people, according to contemporary accounts.
  • When Florida became a Territory, there were two circuits: West and East.
  • When it became a state the circuits expanded to four: Western, Eastern, Middle and Southern. Orange County (which included much or all of Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Indian River and Volusia counties in those early days) was part of the Eastern Circuit.
  • The Constitution of 1868 divided the state into seven judicial circuits. Orange County (and later Osceola County) along with Brevard and Dade counties, comprised the Seventh Judicial Circuit until 1870, when the number of circuits was reduced by legislative amendment to five, and Orange was placed into the Fifth Circuit.
  • The Constitution of 1885 bumped the number of circuits back to seven, and Orange County was assigned to the Seventh Circuit once again, along with Volusia, Brevard and Dade counties. Two years later Osceola was carved out of part of Orange and Brevard counties and also assigned to the Seventh.
  • In 1911, the legislature established 11 circuit courts, with one judge assigned to each, and the original Ninth Circuit was created, containing Washington, Holmes, Calhoun, Jackson and Bay counties. Orange, St. Lucie, Brevard, Volusia, Osceola and Orange were all in the Seventh.
  • In 1919, Orange, Osceola and Lake Counties became part of a specially created Seventeenth Circuit. The Revised General Statutes of 1919, states that “There shall be fourteen judicial circuits… fourteen circuit judges and fourteen State Attorneys.” Then, on the next page, where the revisions begin, fifteen circuits are named, along with a footnote saying the seventeenth judicial circuit was created, composed of Orange, Osceola and Lake.
  • In 1934, the Legislature moved to reduce the number of circuits in the state to 15, and the Ninth Circuit was totally changed to include Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Brevard, St. Lucie, Indian River, Martin and Okeechobee counties.
  • In 1973, in a major revision to Article V of the Constitution, and a major restructuring of the judicial circuits, the Ninth was changed once again, to include only Orange and Osceola counties, as it does today.