Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Cut in judicial staff to affect Hernando County

Chief Circuit Judge Daniel Merritt Sr. says the staff reductions come as court caseloads are increasing.

Chief Circuit Judge Daniel Merritt Sr. says the staff reductions come as court caseloads are increasing.

BROOKSVILLE — More than a dozen staffers in the five-county judicial circuit that includes Hernando County face layoffs or reduced hours under a plan finalized Thursday by the chief judge for the 5th Judicial Circuit.

State budget cuts forced Brooksville-based Chief Circuit Judge Daniel Merritt Sr. to trim the circuit's spending by 9.8 percent, or about $468,000, for the coming fiscal year.

Without providing specifics, Merritt said the cuts will come predominantly from court administration, which works behind the scenes handling the business side of the court system. Judges and judicial assistants are not affected.

The belt-tightening is the result of a faltering economy and declining state revenues. The financial crunch prompted the Legislature to make wholesale spending cuts the past two years.

Statewide, the judicial system took a $43.7-million hit, which will affect about 300 court employees in circuits throughout Florida.

For the court system, the cuts come at a particularly bad time, as judges' caseloads grow.

"A lot of people don't realize that when you have bad economic times court filings go up," Merritt said. "We are getting more and more cases with fewer and fewer people to handle them."

Judicial officials are warning that a reduced staff will delay many low-priority cases, particularly traffic violations and civil litigation such as evictions and foreclosures. Criminal cases and urgent family law matters are expected to remain on track.

"It's not going to stop, but it's going to be slower," said David Trammell, the circuit court's administrator based in Ocala.

The 5th Judicial Circuit, which comprises Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties, will lose the equivalent of nine full-time positions from a work force of 90. But not all represent layoffs; some full-time employees will be converted to part-time to save money. Only one employee in Hernando County is directly affected, Trammell said.

"I'll tell you it's not a pleasant thing," Merritt said in an interview. "In order to get to the budget dollars we were allocated, these positions have to go. I feel badly for those people who are going to be laid off."

The judge submitted his plan to a state commission for approval ahead of Friday's deadline but declined to give details because it could still change.

"At this point it wouldn't be fair for me to tell you," he said. "I don't want to have a panic amongst the employees."

Approval is expected next week, and Merritt said he will tell affected employees the first week of June. The cuts take effect July 1.

Merritt cautions it likely won't be the last time. He noted that state revenues are still falling below projections.

"This may not be the end," he said. "We may be looking next year at additional cuts."

John Frank can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 754-6114.

Cut in judicial staff to affect Hernando County 05/23/08 [Last modified: Sunday, May 25, 2008 12:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series


    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena


    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack


    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath


    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.