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The Florida Statutes

The 2017 Florida Statutes

Title V
JUDICIAL BRANCH
Chapter 34
COUNTY COURTS
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CHAPTER 34
CHAPTER 34
COUNTY COURTS
34.01 Jurisdiction of county court.
34.011 Jurisdiction in landlord and tenant cases.
34.017 Certification of questions to district court of appeal.
34.021 Qualifications of county court judges.
34.022 Number of county court judges for each county.
34.031 Clerk.
34.032 Power of clerk to appoint deputies.
34.041 Filing fees.
34.045 Cost recovery; use of the county court for ordinance or special law violations.
34.07 Sheriff to be executive officer.
34.08 Compensation of sheriff.
34.13 Method of prosecution.
34.131 To be open for voluntary pleas of guilty.
34.161 Persons convicted in county court allowed 48 hours to pay fine before being worked.
34.171 Salaries of bailiffs.
34.181 Branch courts.
34.191 Fines and forfeitures; dispositions.
34.01 Jurisdiction of county court.
(1) County courts shall have original jurisdiction:
(a) In all misdemeanor cases not cognizable by the circuit courts;
(b) Of all violations of municipal and county ordinances;
(c) Of all actions at law in which the matter in controversy does not exceed the sum of $15,000, exclusive of interest, costs, and attorney’s fees, except those within the exclusive jurisdiction of the circuit courts; and
(d) Of disputes occurring in the homeowners’ associations as described in s. 720.311(2)(a), which shall be concurrent with jurisdiction of the circuit courts.
(2) The county courts shall have jurisdiction previously exercised by county judges’ courts other than that vested in the circuit court by s. 26.012, except that county court judges may hear matters involving dissolution of marriage under the simplified dissolution procedure pursuant to the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure or may issue a final order for dissolution in cases where the matter is uncontested, and the jurisdiction previously exercised by county courts, the claims court, small claims courts, small claims magistrates courts, magistrates courts, justice of the peace courts, municipal courts, and courts of chartered counties, including but not limited to the counties referred to in ss. 9, 10, 11, and 24, Art. VIII of the State Constitution of 1885, as preserved by s. (6)(e), Art. VIII of the State Constitution of 1968.
(3) Judges of county courts shall also be committing trial court judges. Judges of county courts shall be coroners unless otherwise provided by law or by rule of the Supreme Court.
(4) Judges of county courts may hear all matters in equity involved in any case within the jurisdictional amount of the county court, except as otherwise restricted by the State Constitution or the laws of Florida.
(5) A county court is a trial court.
History.s. 6, ch. 3730, 1887; RS 1572, 2833; GS 2034, 3890; s. 1, ch. 6463, 1913; RGS 3325, 3326, 5985; CGL 5169, 5170, 8278; s. 3, ch. 63-559; s. 9, ch. 72-404; s. 1, ch. 77-135; s. 1, ch. 80-165; s. 1, ch. 90-269; s. 3, ch. 2000-336; s. 4, ch. 2004-11; s. 31, ch. 2004-265; s. 29, ch. 2004-345; s. 25, ch. 2004-353.
34.011 Jurisdiction in landlord and tenant cases.
(1) The county court shall have jurisdiction concurrent with the circuit court to consider landlord and tenant cases involving claims in amounts which are within its jurisdictional limitations. The county court may issue a temporary and permanent injunction where appropriate for violation of ss. 83.40 et seq.
(2) The county court shall have exclusive jurisdiction of proceedings relating to the right of possession of real property and to the forcible or unlawful detention of lands and tenements, except that the circuit court also has jurisdiction if the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional limits of the county court or the circuit court otherwise has jurisdiction as provided in s. 26.012. In cases transferred to the circuit court pursuant to Rule 1.170(j), Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, or Rule 7.100(d), Florida Small Claims Rules, the demands of all parties shall be resolved by the circuit court.
History.s. 7, ch. 72-406; s. 2, ch. 74-209; s. 2, ch. 77-135; s. 1, ch. 91-181; s. 9, ch. 93-255.
34.017 Certification of questions to district court of appeal.
(1) A county court is permitted to certify a question to the district court of appeal in a final judgment if the question may have statewide application, and:
(a) Is of great public importance; or
(b) Will affect the uniform administration of justice.
(2) In the final judgment, the trial court shall:
(a) Make findings of fact and conclusions of law; and
(b) State concisely the question to be certified.
(3) The decision to certify the question to the district court of appeal is within the sole discretion of the county court.
(4) The district court of appeal has absolute discretion as to whether to answer a question certified by the county court.
(a) If the district court agrees to answer the certified question, it shall decide all appealable issues that have been raised from the final judgment.
(b) If the district court declines to answer the certified question, the case shall be transferred to the circuit court which has appellate jurisdiction.
History.s. 3, ch. 84-303.
34.021 Qualifications of county court judges.
(1) No person is eligible for election or appointment to the office of county court judge unless the person is, and has been for the preceding 5 years, a member in good standing of the bar of Florida prior to qualifying for election to such office or submitting his or her name to the appropriate judicial nominating commission for appointment. However, a person is eligible for election or appointment to the office of county court judge in a county having a population of 40,000 or less if he or she is a member in good standing of the bar of Florida.
(2) A county court judge is eligible to seek reelection or retention, notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (1), if, on the first day of the qualification period for election to such office or a retention vote, such judge is actively serving in such office and is not under suspension or disqualification.
(3) Any person who was a county court judge prior to July 1, 1978, in any county having a population of 40,000 or less, according to the last decennial census, and who has successfully completed a 3-year law training program approved by the Supreme Court for the training of county court judges who are not members of The Florida Bar is eligible to seek election or retention and to serve as a county court judge in any county having a population of 40,000 or less, the provisions of subsection (1) to the contrary notwithstanding.
(4) Any county judge who is not a member of the bar, in any county having a population of 40,000 or less, according to the last decennial census, and who has successfully completed a law training program approved by the Supreme Court for the training of county court judges who are not members of The Florida Bar is entitled to serve as a county court judge in any county encompassed in the circuit in which the judge has been elected or retained in a retention vote, when assigned thereto.
History.s. 10, ch. 72-404; s. 1, ch. 78-346; s. 1, ch. 79-411; s. 1, ch. 83-166; s. 1, ch. 84-303; s. 194, ch. 95-147; s. 1, ch. 99-355.
34.022 Number of county court judges for each county.The number of county court judges in each county shall be as follows:

COUNTY     TOTAL

(1) Alachua..........5
(2) Baker..........1
(3) Bay..........4
(4) Bradford..........1
(5) Brevard..........11
(6) Broward..........32
(7) Calhoun..........1
(8) Charlotte..........3
(9) Citrus..........1
(10) Clay..........2
(11) Collier..........6
(12) Columbia..........1
(13) DeSoto..........1
(14) Dixie..........1
(15) Duval..........17
(16) Escambia..........5
(17) Flagler..........1
(18) Franklin..........1
(19) Gadsden..........1
(20) Gilchrist..........1
(21) Glades..........1
(22) Gulf..........1
(23) Hamilton..........1
(24) Hardee..........1
(25) Hendry..........1
(26) Hernando..........2
(27) Highlands..........1
(28) Hillsborough..........17
(29) Holmes..........1
(30) Indian River..........2
(31) Jackson..........1
(32) Jefferson..........1
(33) Lafayette..........1
(34) Lake..........3
(35) Lee..........8
(36) Leon..........5
(37) Levy..........1
(38) Liberty..........1
(39) Madison..........1
(40) Manatee..........4
(41) Marion..........4
(42) Martin..........3
(43) Miami-Dade..........43
(44) Monroe..........4
(45) Nassau..........1
(46) Okaloosa..........3
(47) Okeechobee..........1
(48) Orange..........18
(49) Osceola..........4
(50) Palm Beach..........19
(51) Pasco..........7
(52) Pinellas..........17
(53) Polk..........10
(54) Putnam..........2
(55) St. Johns..........2
(56) St. Lucie..........4
(57) Santa Rosa..........2
(58) Sarasota..........5
(59) Seminole..........6
(60) Sumter..........1
(61) Suwannee..........1
(62) Taylor..........1
(63) Union..........1
(64) Volusia..........10
(65) Wakulla..........1
(66) Walton..........1
(67) Washington..........1
History.s. 1, ch. 72-406; s. 2, ch. 73-329; s. 19, ch. 73-333; s. 1, ch. 74-306; s. 2, ch. 76-175; s. 2, ch. 77-368; s. 2, ch. 78-168; s. 6, ch. 79-413; s. 3, ch. 80-164; s. 3, ch. 81-220; s. 3, ch. 82-238; s. 7, ch. 84-303; s. 2, ch. 85-218; s. 2, ch. 86-279; s. 2, ch. 87-89; s. 3, ch. 88-167; s. 2, ch. 89-290; s. 2, ch. 90-206; s. 2, ch. 93-63; s. 4, ch. 94-137; s. 2, ch. 95-351; s. 2, ch. 96-271; s. 2, ch. 97-257; ss. 3, 4, ch. 99-151; s. 2, ch. 2001-284; ss. 3, 4, ch. 2005-150; s. 2, ch. 2005-356; s. 2, ch. 2006-166.
34.031 Clerk.The clerk of the circuit court shall be clerk of the county court unless otherwise provided by law.
History.s. 11, ch. 72-404.
34.032 Power of clerk to appoint deputies.
(1) With the concurrence of the chief circuit judge of the circuit, the clerk of the circuit court, in his or her capacity as clerk of the county court, may appoint a deputy clerk or clerks of the county court, for whose acts the clerk shall be liable, and the said deputies shall have and exercise each and every power of whatsoever nature and kind as the clerk may exercise as clerk of the county court, except the power to appoint a deputy or deputies.
(2) Any deputy county court clerk appointed for the sole purpose of issuing arrest warrants for violation of chapter 316 or county or municipal ordinances triable in the county courts shall have and exercise only those powers of the clerk which are required to achieve such limited purpose, and those arrest warrants issued for violation of county or municipal ordinances shall be funded by the county or municipality which approved the ordinance.
(3) Any municipal clerk or deputy municipal clerk appointed as a deputy clerk of the county court shall receive no additional compensation from the state or from any county but may be compensated for such warrant-issuing duties by his or her employing municipality. The limited appointment of any municipal clerk or deputy municipal clerk as a deputy clerk of the county court under this section shall not constitute any appointment to a new office, but rather shall be the conferring of additional powers and duties upon a municipal officer in order to implement revised Art. V of the State Constitution wherein the jurisdiction of municipal courts is transferred to the county courts. It is the expressed intent of the Legislature that the designation of any deputy clerk of the county court herein shall not create any new office but rather shall enlarge the duties and powers of municipal clerks and deputy municipal clerks as provided herein.
(4) Nothing in this section shall limit the power to appoint under s. 28.06.
History.s. 1, ch. 73-297; s. 195, ch. 95-147; s. 51, ch. 2003-402.
34.041 Filing fees.
(1)(a) Filing fees are due at the time a party files a pleading to initiate a proceeding or files a pleading for relief. Reopen fees are due at the time a party files a pleading to reopen a proceeding if at least 90 days have elapsed since the filing of a final order or final judgment with the clerk. If a fee is not paid upon the filing of the pleading as required under this section, the clerk shall pursue collection of the fee pursuant to s. 28.246. Upon the institution of any civil action, suit, or proceeding in county court, the party shall pay the following filing fee, not to exceed:
1. For all claims less than $100..........$50.
2. For all claims of $100 or more but not more than $500..........$75.
3. For all claims of more than $500 but not more than $2,500..........$170.
4. For all claims of more than $2,500..........$295.
5. In addition, for all proceedings of garnishment, attachment, replevin, and distress..........$85.
6. Notwithstanding subparagraphs 3. and 5., for all claims of not more than $1,000 filed simultaneously with an action for replevin of property that is the subject of the claim..........$125.
7. For removal of tenant action..........$180.

The filing fee in subparagraph 6. is the total fee due under this paragraph for that type of filing, and no other filing fee under this paragraph may be assessed against such a filing.

(b) The first $15 of the filing fee collected under subparagraph (a)4. and the first $10 of the filing fee collected under subparagraph (a)7. shall be deposited in the State Courts Revenue Trust Fund. By the 10th day of each month, the clerk shall submit that portion of the fees collected in the previous month which is in excess of one-twelfth of the clerk’s total budget for the performance of court-related functions to the Department of Revenue for deposit into the Clerks of the Court Trust Fund. An additional filing fee of $4 shall be paid to the clerk. The clerk shall transfer $3.50 to the Department of Revenue for deposit into the Court Education Trust Fund and shall transfer 50 cents to the Department of Revenue for deposit into the Administrative Trust Fund within the Department of Financial Services to fund clerk education provided by the Florida Clerks of Court Operations Corporation. Postal charges incurred by the clerk of the county court in making service by mail on defendants or other parties shall be paid by the party at whose instance service is made. Except as provided in this section, filing fees and service charges for performing duties of the clerk relating to the county court shall be as provided in ss. 28.24 and 28.241. Except as otherwise provided in this section, all filing fees shall be retained as fee income of the office of the clerk of the circuit court. Filing fees imposed by this section may not be added to any penalty imposed by chapter 316 or chapter 318.
(c) A party in addition to a party described in paragraph (a) who files a pleading in an original civil action in the county court for affirmative relief by cross-claim, counterclaim, counterpetition, or third-party complaint, or who files a notice of cross-appeal or notice of joinder or motion to intervene as an appellant, cross-appellant, or petitioner, shall pay the clerk of court a fee of $295 if the relief sought by the party under this paragraph exceeds $2,500. The clerk shall remit the fee to the Department of Revenue for deposit into the General Revenue Fund. This fee does not apply if the cross-claim, counterclaim, counterpetition, or third-party complaint requires transfer of the case from county to circuit court. However, the party shall pay to the clerk the standard filing fee for the court to which the case is to be transferred.
(d) The clerk of court shall collect a service charge of $10 for issuing a summons or an electronic certified copy of a summons. The clerk shall assess the fee against the party seeking to have the summons issued.
(2) A party reopening any civil action, suit, or proceeding in the county court shall pay to the clerk of court a filing fee set by the clerk in an amount not to exceed $25 for all claims of not more than $500 and an amount not to exceed $50 for all claims of more than $500. For purposes of this section, a case is reopened after all appeals have been exhausted, or time to file an appeal from a final order or final judgment has expired. A reopen fee may be assessed by the clerk for any motion filed by any party at least 90 days after a final order or final judgment has been filed with the clerk in the initial case. A reservation of jurisdiction by a court does not cause a case to remain open for purposes of this section or exempt a party from paying a reopen fee. A party is exempt from paying the fee for any of the following:
(a) A writ of garnishment;
(b) A writ of replevin;
(c) A distress writ;
(d) A writ of attachment;
(e) A motion for rehearing filed within 10 days;
(f) A motion for attorney’s fees filed within 30 days of the entry of the judgment or final order;
(g) A motion for dismissal filed after a mediation agreement has been filed;
(h) A motion to withdraw by attorneys;
(i) Stipulations and motions to enforce stipulations;
(j) Responsive pleadings; or
(k) Motions for contempt.
(3) If a nonindigent party fails to pay accrued costs, the judge shall have power to deny that party the right to file any new case while such costs remain unpaid and, likewise, to deny such litigant the right to proceed further in any pending case.
(4) In criminal proceedings in county courts, costs shall be taxed against a person in county court upon conviction or estreature pursuant to chapter 939.
(5) Upon the institution of any appellate proceeding from the county court to the circuit court, including any appeal filed by a county or municipality, the clerk shall charge and collect filing fees as provided in s. 28.241(2) from the party or parties instituting the appellate proceedings. If the party is determined to be indigent, the clerk shall defer payment of the fee.
(6) A charge or a fee may not be imposed upon a party for responding by pleading, motion, or other paper to a civil or criminal action, suit, or proceeding in a county court or to an appeal to the circuit court.
(7) For purposes of this section, the term “party” includes a county or municipality filing any civil action.
(8) From each attorney appearing pro hac vice, the clerk must collect a fee of $100 for deposit into the General Revenue Fund.
History.ss. 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, ch. 26931, 1951; s. 4, ch. 63-559; s. 12, ch. 70-134; s. 12, ch. 72-404; s. 2, ch. 74-154; s. 4, ch. 77-284; s. 15, ch. 79-400; s. 3, ch. 82-205; s. 5, ch. 87-145; s. 8, ch. 89-290; s. 2, ch. 90-181; s. 2, ch. 90-269; s. 4, ch. 91-152; s. 196, ch. 95-147; s. 4, ch. 96-209; s. 2, ch. 96-350; s. 7, ch. 2001-122; s. 52, ch. 2003-402; s. 32, ch. 2004-265; s. 11, ch. 2008-111; ss. 7, 20, ch. 2009-61; s. 7, ch. 2009-204; s. 17, ch. 2010-162; s. 2, ch. 2011-133; s. 6, ch. 2012-100; s. 9, ch. 2013-44.
34.045 Cost recovery; use of the county court for ordinance or special law violations.
(1)(a) In lieu of payment of a filing fee under s. 34.041, a filing fee of $10 shall be paid by a county or municipality when filing a violation of a county or municipal ordinance or a violation of a special law in county court. This fee shall be paid to the clerk of the court for performing court-related functions. A county or municipality is not required to pay more than one filing fee for a single filing against a single defendant that contains multiple alleged violations. A filing fee, other than that imposed under this section, may not be assessed for initiating an enforcement proceeding in county court for a violation of a county or municipal code or ordinance or a violation of a special law. The filing fee shall not apply to instances in which a county or municipality has contracted with the state, or has been delegated by the state, responsibility for enforcing state operations, policies, or requirements under s. 125.69, s. 166.0415, or chapter 162.
(b) No other filing fee may be assessed for filing the violation in county court. If a person contests the violation in court, the court shall assess $40 in costs against the nonprevailing party. The county or municipality shall be considered the prevailing party when there is a plea or finding of violation or guilt to any count or lesser included offense of the charge or companion case charges, regardless of adjudication. Costs recovered pursuant to this paragraph shall be deposited into the clerk’s fine and forfeiture fund established pursuant to s. 142.01.
(c) If the person does not contest the violation in court or if the county or municipality is the prevailing party, the court shall assess the person or nonprevailing party $10 for the filing fee provided in paragraph (a), which amount shall be forwarded to the county or municipality.
(2) To offset costs incurred by the clerks of the court in performing court-related functions associated with the processing of violations of special laws and municipal ordinances, 10 percent of the total amount of fines paid to each municipality for special law or ordinance violations filed in county court shall be retained by the clerk of the court for deposit into the clerk’s fine and forfeiture fund established pursuant to s. 142.01, except for fines a portion of which the clerk of the court retains pursuant to any other provision of state law.
History.s. 33, ch. 2004-265; s. 22, ch. 2005-236.
34.07 Sheriff to be executive officer.The sheriff of the county shall serve and execute all civil and criminal processes of said court and do and perform all duties in and about said court, which are required to be performed by an executive officer.
History.s. 12, ch. 3730, 1887; RS 1575, 2838; GS 2037, 3896; RGS 3329, 5993; CGL 5173, 8287.
34.08 Compensation of sheriff.The compensation of the sheriff for serving processes in cases in the county court, and for other services in connection therewith, shall be the same as that for like services in the circuit court.
History.RS 2839; GS 3897; RGS 5994; CGL 8288.
34.13 Method of prosecution.
(1) All persons tried in the county court on any criminal charge shall be tried upon indictment by the grand jury, upon information filed by the prosecuting attorney, or upon affidavit or complaint.
(2) Upon the finding of indictments by the grand jury for crimes cognizable by the county court, the clerk of the court, without any order therefor, shall docket the same on the trial docket of the county court.
(3) The state attorney is authorized to sign affidavits before the judge of the county court when the state attorney has evidence to support such affidavit for a criminal charge over which such court has jurisdiction. The judge shall issue arrest warrants upon such affidavit as is done in all other cases. This procedure shall be cumulative to all other practice and procedure before such courts.
(4) Upon complaint made on affidavit to any county court that any misdemeanor has been committed, the county court judge may issue a warrant on the usual form, making it returnable before himself or herself or another county court judge.
(5) Municipal prosecutors may prosecute violations of municipal ordinances.
(6) Any circuit court clerk acting as clerk of the county court, or any deputy county court clerk appointed for the sole purpose of issuing arrest warrants, or any county court clerk, may, at municipal expense, administer an oath to and take affidavit of any person charging another person with a violation of a municipal ordinance and may issue a warrant on the usual form, making it returnable to the appropriate county court judge. The authority granted to a clerk or deputy clerk under this section shall be subordinate to that of any state judge.
History.s. 9, ch. 3730, 1887; RS 2837; GS 3894; RGS 5989; CGL 8283; s. 13, ch. 72-404; s. 2, ch. 73-297; s. 197, ch. 95-147; s. 53, ch. 2003-402; s. 6, ch. 2013-25.
34.131 To be open for voluntary pleas of guilty.All county courts in this state, in addition to their regular trial terms as now provided by law, shall, at all times, Sundays excepted, be considered open for the reception of voluntary pleas of guilty in all criminal cases pending therein on information, indictment, affidavit, or complaint and for the rendition of judgments and passing of sentences, the same to be entered of record by the clerks of said courts as directed by said judges. And the judges of said courts, at all times, Sundays excepted, may receive such pleas of guilty, when voluntarily offered by the accused, and thereupon at once pronounce judgment of conviction and sentence upon such pleas and direct the entry of the same of record by the clerks of said courts.
History.s. 2, ch. 4398, 1895; GS 3872; RGS 5967; CGL 8234; s. 1, ch. 24107, 1947; s. 17, ch. 73-333.
Note.Former s. 32.08.
34.161 Persons convicted in county court allowed 48 hours to pay fine before being worked.Any person convicted of crime in the county court who shall have a pecuniary fine or sum of money assessed or adjudged against him or her as punishment may, on being taken into custody by the proper officer of the court or prior to such arrest at any time within 48 hours from the time the person is sentenced, pay the said fine and cost or give the bail for the payment of such fine and cost of prosecution, as provided in s. 921.15; and such person convicted in the county court shall not be transferred or turned over to persons working the county prisoners until the expiration of 48 hours from the time such person was sentenced by the court.
History.s. 14, ch. 72-404; s. 198, ch. 95-147.
34.171 Salaries of bailiffs.The county shall pay all reasonable salaries of bailiffs.
History.s. 15, ch. 72-404; s. 54, ch. 2003-402.
34.181 Branch courts.
(1) Any municipality or county may apply to the chief judge of the circuit in which the municipality or county is situated for the county court to sit in a location suitable to the municipality or county and convenient in time and place to its citizens and police officers, and upon such application said chief judge shall direct the court to sit in the location unless he or she shall determine the request is not justified. If the chief judge does not authorize the county court to sit in the location requested, the county or municipality may apply to the Supreme Court for an order directing the county court to sit in such location.
(2) Any municipality or county which so applies shall be required to provide the appropriate physical facilities as defined in s. 29.008 in which the county court may hold court.
History.s. 16, ch. 72-404; s. 199, ch. 95-147; s. 55, ch. 2003-402.
34.191 Fines and forfeitures; dispositions.
(1) All fines and forfeitures arising from offenses tried in the county court shall be collected and accounted for by the clerk of the court and, other than the charge provided in s. 318.1215, disbursed in accordance with ss. 28.2402, 34.045, 142.01, and 142.03 and subject to the provisions of s. 28.246(5) and (6). Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, all fines and forfeitures arising from operation of the provisions of s. 318.1215 shall be disbursed in accordance with that section.
(2) All fines and forfeitures received from violations of municipal ordinances committed within a municipality within the territorial jurisdiction of the county court, other than the charge provided in s. 318.1215, shall be paid monthly to the municipality except as provided in s. 28.2402(2), s. 34.045(2), s. 318.21, or s. 943.25. A municipality does not include the unincorporated areas, if any, of a government created pursuant to s. 6(e), Art. VIII of the State Constitution.
(3) All other fines and forfeitures collected by the clerk, other than the charge provided in s. 318.1215, shall be considered income of the office of the clerk for use in performing court-related duties of the office.
History.ss. 1, 2, ch. 72-70; s. 17, ch. 72-404; s. 3, ch. 80-179; s. 3, ch. 83-215; s. 1, ch. 85-250; s. 1, ch. 85-255; s. 2, ch. 86-154; s. 3, ch. 96-350; s. 2, ch. 98-258; s. 56, ch. 2003-402; s. 34, ch. 2004-265; s. 6, ch. 2005-2; s. 23, ch. 2005-236.