Court History

The Fifth District Court of Appeal was created by the 1979 session of the Florida Legislature. At that time the Florida Supreme Court had recommended to the Legislature "the creation of a fifth appellate district that would encompass the Fifth, Seventh, Ninth, Tenth and Eighteenth Judicial Circuits." SeeIn Re Advisory Opinion to the Governor Request of June 29, 1979, 374 So. 2d 959 (Fla. 1979). Had the Legislature adopted the court's recommendation, the new headquarters for the Fifth District would have been Lakeland in the Tenth Judicial Circuit, the existing headquarters of the Second District Court of Appeal. The new headquarters of the Second District then would have been located in either Tampa or St. Petersburg. The Legislature, however, created the new district to include the Fifth, Seventh, Ninth and Eighteenth Judicial Circuits, as recommended by the Florida Supreme Court, but omitted the Tenth Circuit, which encompassed Polk, Highland and Hardee Counties, thereby leaving Lakeland in the Second District. There was a political dispute in the Legislature as to whether to locate the new court headquarters in Orlando or Daytona Beach, but Volusia County's Legislative delegation won the fight. This was due to the strong influence of House Speaker Hyatt Brown, Senator Edgar Dunn and Majority Leader Sam Bell.

Given the controversy surrounding the creation of the Fifth District Court of Appeal, Governor Graham sought an advisory opinion from the Florida Supreme Court concerning the constitutionality of the new district. Three of the seven supreme court justices declined to join in the majority's opinion that the new court was constitutional or otherwise to render an opinion on the issue. Four of the justices, however, rendered the advisory opinion, supra., advising Governor Graham that "the omission of one recommended judicial circuit from the new appellate district is not a prohibited modification of the court's recommendation; however, the addition of one or more judicial circuits not included in the court's certification would be a prohibited modification." See Advisory Opinion at 966. The bill creating the Fifth DCA became law without the Governor's signature. Section 35.043, Florida Statutes, describes the geographical jurisdiction of the court and section 35.05(1), Florida Statutes, provides: "The headquarters of the . . . Fifth Appellate District (shall be) in the Seventh Judicial Circuit, Daytona Beach, Volusia County." The Fifth District includes 13 central Florida counties: Orange and Osceola (Ninth Circuit); Volusia, Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns (Seventh Circuit); Lake, Marion, Sumter, Citrus and Hernando (Fifth Circuit); and Brevard and Seminole (18th Circuit).

Two judges from the Fourth District in West Palm Beach, Spencer C. Cross and James C. Dauksch, Jr., transferred to the newly created Fifth District. In the interim, Orange County Circuit Judge Parker Lee McDonald, later to be a justice of the Florida Supreme Court, was assigned by Governor Graham as a temporary appellate judge to allow a complement of three judges for the court to commence operations in August 1979, with an immediate caseload of 1021 filings transferred from the First, Second and Fourth DCAs.

Subsequently, four other original judges were appointed in 1979: Judges Melvin Orfinger and Warren Cobb from Volusia County; Frank Upchurch, Jr. from St. Johns County; and Winifred Sharp from Orange County. The new court chose Judge Dauksch as its chief judge and the first court clerk was Frank Habershaw who retired October 2005. The court's first locale was in the U.S. Army Reserve building in downtown Daytona Beach. The first oral argument calendar was conducted on November 13, 1979, before Judges Dauksch, Orfinger and Cobb. Early oral arguments were heard either in chambers at the City Hall or in borrowed courtrooms at the Volusia County Courthouse Annex located on City Island in Daytona Beach.

Ground for a new courthouse was broken on July 24, 1981. The new courthouse was constructed for $5.3 million and the court left the Army Reserve building and moved into its new quarters on October 19, 1982. The building is located at 300 South Beach Street, Daytona Beach, Florida. It was significantly enlarged in 2000-2001.

As the population and resulting court workload in the district has grown, the legislature has added more judges to the court. One seat was added in 1989, two more in 1990, another in 2000. An eleventh seat was added in 2014.

In 2016, Chief Judge C. Alan Lawson was elevated to the Florida Supreme Court by Governor Rick Scott. Justice Lawson is the first member of the court to be named to the Florida Supreme Court.

Judicial Seats & History

Seat 1

1979 - 1999

James Dauksch
Chief Judge

2000 - present

Richard Orfinger
Chief Judge

Seat 2

1979 - 1988

Melvin Orfinger
Chief Judge

1989 - 2002

Charles Harris
Chief Judge

2003 - 2018

Vincent Torpy, Jr.
Chief Judge

2018 - present

Meredith L. Sasso

Seat 3

1979 - 2002

Warren Cobb
Chief Judge

2003 - 2011

David Monaco
Chief Judge

2012 - 2019

Wendy Berger

Seat 4

1979 - 1987

Frank Upchurch Jr
Chief Judge

1988 - 1989

C. Welborn Daniel
Chief Judge

1990 - 1994

George Diamantis

1995 - 1999

John Antoon, II
Chief Judge

2000 - 2017

William Palmer
Chief Judge

2018 - present

Jamie Grosshans

Seat 5

1979 - 2005

Winifred Sharp
Chief Judge

2006 - present

Kerry Evander

Seat 6


Spencer Cross

1980 - 1992

Joe Cowart Jr.
Chief Judge

1993 - 2006

Emerson Thompson
Chief Judge

2007 - present

Jay Cohen
Chief Judge

Seat 7

1989 - 1999

Gilbert Goshhorn
Chief Judge

2000 - 2008

Robert Pleus
Chief Judge

2009 - 2012

Bruce Jacobus

2013 - present

F. Rand Wallis

Seat 8

1990 - 2005

Earle Peterson, JR
Chief Judge

2006 - 2016

C. Alan Lawson
Chief Judge

2017 - present

Eric Eisnaugle

Seat 9

1990 - 2013

Jacqueline Griffin
Chief Judge

2014 - present

Brian Lambert

Seat 10

2000 - 2017

Thomas Sawaya
Chief Judge

2018 - present

John Harris

Seat 11

2014 - present

James Edwards