Florida Appeals 101: What is a PCA?

Dead End by Dineen Pashoukos Wasylik All Rights Reserved

A PCA is usually the end of the road for your appeal.

A while back, I shared the story of a Florida appellate judge using a “PCA” stamp on his iPad, and a colleague in New York asked, “What’s a PCA”? I think it’s a sign that I have been practicing in Florida for more of my career than not at this point, because I didn’t realize that the term PCA is not a nationwide appellate term of art. An informal poll of attorneys in other jurisdictions confirms that the term PCA is not common amongst other states’ appellate courts.

Here in Florida, PCA stands for Per Curiam Affirmed, and it means that one of Florida’s intermediate District Courts of Appeal has affirmed the trial court’s decision without explanation. Instead, the opinion contains one word — “Affirmed” — and is listed as being the opinion of the entire panel per curiam, or by the Court.

So that’s what it means literally — what does it mean practically? If the District Court has issued a PCA, the appeal is most likely over. The Florida Supreme Court is a high court of limited jurisdiction. Unless your case involves declaring a statute valid or involves constitutional issues, the discretionary jurisdiction constitutionally and by rule is pretty much limited to review of:

decisions of district courts of appeal that…(iv) expressly and directly conflict with a decision of another district court of appeal or of the supreme court on the same question of law;

Fla. R. App. P. 9.030(a)(2)(A). Without a decision explaining the court’s reasoning, there is no way to argue that the decision “expressly and directly” conflicts with existing court precedent.

There is a procedure to ask the DCA to issue an opinion, but even that is an uphill battle. The rule states:

When a decision is entered without opinion, and a party believes that a written opinion would provide a legitimate basis for supreme court review, the motion may include a request that the court issue a written opinion. If such a request is made by an attorney, it shall include the following statement:

I express a belief, based upon a reasoned and studied professional judgment, that a written opinion will provide a legitimate basis for supreme court review because (state with specificity the reasons why the supreme court would be likely to grant review if an opinion were written).

Fla. R. App. P. 9.330(a). Not every case sets up that kind of potential conflict, and so motions for an opinion should be brought sparingly. And the majority of the time, PCA means you’ve hit a Dead End, and your appeal is over.

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