History of the Second District Court of Appeal
In 1956, the Florida Constitution was amended to provide for District Courts of Appeal to assume a major portion of the appellate jurisdiction of the state court system. Initially three districts for those courts were established. The initial territorial jurisdiction of the Second District, with its headquarters in Lakeland, encompassed twenty-eight counties, ranging from Lake County in the north, to Collier County and Broward County in the south. In 1965, the Fourth District was established, reducing the Second District's territory, which was further reduced by the establishment of the Fifth District in 1979. There are now fourteen counties in the Second District which includes a population of over 3.8 million: Pasco & Pinellas, Hardee, Highlands, Polk, DeSoto, Manatee, Sarasota, Hillsborough, Charlotte, Glades, Collier, Hendry, and Lee.
When the District Court of a Appeal for the Second District first convened, its headquarters were in the old Florida Citrus Commission building at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Main Street in Lakeland. In 1980 a branch headquarters for the Second District was authorized and in that same year was established in Tampa where the court maintains an additional courtroom and where eight of the court's judges now have their chambers. The chambers of six judges, the clerk's office, the marshal's office, and the court records are located in the court's Lakeland headquarters. The court hears oral arguments in both its Lakeland and Tampa courtrooms. Periodically, the court also hears oral arguments in county courthouses in various counties within the district.
Originally there were three judges in the Second District. Those three constituted the panel of judges which heard and decided the cases before the court. In 1958, the first full year of the court's operation, those cases numbered 210. As the caseload of the court increased over the years, the number of judges on the court also increased. However, the increase in the caseload per judge exceeds the increase in the number of judges. There are now 14 judges on the court.