Constitution of 1885

Delegates convened in June 1885 to revise Florida’s state constitution. The existing constitution had been in effect since 1868, when it was adopted as part of Florida’s reentry into the United States following the Civil War. The 1885 constitution legitimized poll taxes as a prerequisite for voting, which ultimately disproportionately disenfranchised African Americans and many poor whites.

Constitution of 1885




Section 1. The judicial power of the State shall be vested in a Supreme Court, Circuit Courts, Criminal Courts, County Courts, County Judges and Justices of the Peace.

Section 2. The Supreme Court shall consist of three Justices, who shall be elected by the qualified electors of the State at the time and places of voting for members of the Legislature, and shall hold their office for the term of six years, except those first elected, one of whom, to be designated by lot in such manner as they may determine, shall hold his office for two years, another to be designated in like manner for four years, and the third for six years, so that one shall be elected every two years after the first election. The Chief Justice shall be designated by lot by said Justices, and shall be such during his term of office. The firstelection for said Justices shall take place at the first election for members of the Legislature after the ratification of this Constitution, and their term of office shall begin on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January after their election.

Section 3. No person shall ever be appointed or elected as a Justice of the Supreme Court, or Judge of a Circuit Court, or Criminal Court, that is not twenty-five years of age and an attorney at law.

Section 4. The majority of the Justices of the Supreme Court shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of all business. The concurrence of two Justices shall be necessary to a decision. The number of terms of the Supreme Court and the times of holding the same shall be regulated by law. All terms shall be held at the Capital of the State.

Section 5. The Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction in all cases at law and in equity originating in Circuit courts, and of appeals from the Circuit Courts in cases arising before Judges of the County Courts in matters pertaining to their probate jurisdiction and in the management of the estates of infants, and in cases of conviction of felony in the criminal courts, and in all criminal cases originating in the Circuit Courts. The Court shall have the power to issue writs of mandamus, certiorari, prohibition, quo warranto, habeas corpus, and also all writs necessary or proper to the complete exercise of its jurisdiction. Each of the Justices shall have power to issue writs of habeas corpus to any part of the State upon petition by or on behalf of any person held in actual custody, and may make such writs returnable before himself or the Supreme Court, or any Justice thereof, or before any Circuit Judge.

Section 6. The Legislature shall have power to prescribe regulations for calling into the Supreme Court a Judge of the Circuit Court, to hear and determine any matters pending before the Court in the place of any Justice thereof that shall be disqualified or disabled in such case from interest or other cause.