Florida's Other Courts: Unconventional Justice in the Sunshine State.

Author:Chinaris, Timothy P.
Position:Book review

Florida's Other Courts: Unconventional Justice in the Sunshine State

Edited by Robert M. Jarvis

Florida's legal history is rich and varied due to the many nations and cultures that have stamped their imprint on the state. Florida's Other Courts: Un conventional Justice in the Sunshine State offers concise and interesting essays surveying eight different types of courts that have dispensed justice in Florida.

This slim volume is well edited by Nova Southeastern Law Professor Robert Jarvis. Part I covers courts of general jurisdiction: Spanish courts, British courts, territorial courts, and Confederate courts. Part II covers courts of special jurisdiction: military courts, religious courts, black courts, and Native American courts.

Readers will learn about governmental courts that preceded our present systems. For example, although Florida was under Spanish control for nearly 300 years, details of Spanish judicial administration are scarce because records are scattered or unavailable. The essay on Spanish courts capably pulls together the available facts.

The British court system in Florida (1763-1783) was unlike the Spanish system in that colonial governors were executive and not judicial officers. Each colony had a chief justice. Grand juries and petit juries were commonly used.

The territorial period (1821-1845) involved land disputes left over from the Spanish period. Initially such disputes were not handled in the courts, but were decided by a special commission appointed by Congress.

Confederate courts in Florida operated under continual stress. Confederate district courts had concurrent jurisdiction with state courts, and there was no Confederate Supreme Court to settle disputes. Fighting kept state courts from processing civil and, especially, criminal cases. Interestingly, decisions of the Florida Supreme Court during the war continued to reflect the jurisprudence of the Union by citing the U.S. Supreme Court or courts of states that remained in the Union.

Three of the four specialty courts profiled in the book still operate today. The almost 100,000 Florida-related active duty and reserve military personnel may be subject to prosecution for criminal offenses in military courts. The military justice process is briefly explained, and differences from...

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