Congress passed a series of laws known as the Reconstruction Acts in 1867. These laws required the former Confederate states to dissolve existing state governments, register all eligible men (white or African-American) to vote, and then hold conventions to create new state constitutions. To be readmitted to the United States, each state’s constitution had to accept the end of slavery and adopt the 14th amendment, which guaranteed equal rights for all men, regardless of race. Florida’s voters selected delegates to a state constitutional convention in November 1867. The convention met on January 20, 1868, and the new constitution was ratified by the voters the following May.
Be it Ordained by the People of Florida in Convention assembled, That from and after the passage of this ordinance, the County Criminal Courts of this State shall be abolished, and all fees, costs, and charges of every kind whatsoever, due or to become due, to any justice of the peace, constable, clerk of circuit court, or of the county criminal court, sheriff, or any officer of this State, for services, issuing warrants, arresting accused, preparing docket and papers, confining prisoners, or for any service whatever, in and about said county criminal court, are declared illegal and void, and fully satisfied and extinguished; and it shall not be lawful for any Board of County Commissioners of this State, or any Treasurer, State or county, to allow or pay out any money or moneys for any such services; Provided, A small allowance, not to exceed the actual cost of the provisions, shall be allowed for the feeding of accused defendants and prisoners, bound over to or fined in said county criminal courts, and nothing shall be so construed as to deprive judges and solicitors of their fees.
Be it further ordained, That all fines, penalties, and disabilities ordered, entered up, or created in said county criminal courts are hereby rescinded and removed; all prisoners found guilty in said county criminal courts are hereby pardoned and released, and all judgments, executions, bonds, and recognizances, now outstanding and unsatisfied, originating or created in said courts, are hereby declared null, void, and paid off.
Be it further ordained, That all cases now pending in said court shall be transferred to the circuit court, and the officer transferring them to said circuit court shall be allowed the regular fees now allowed for such services.
Passed in open Convention, February 24th, 1868.
HORATIO JENKINS, JR., President.
SHERMAN CONANT, Secretary.