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 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. Coming to Hulu in August: 'Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure,' 'Saw' movies and more


    Hello, binge-worthy new additions to Hulu. Clue, Clueless and five Saw movies? You spoil us, Hulu.

    Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.
  2. Whitman: Hollywood whitewashing raises questions about Jesus' depiction


    I grew up believing in white Jesus.

    A painting on my grandma's wall depicted a blonde, blue-eyed Christ.

  3. Special sorority seeks ways to help their Green Berets and themselves during St. Leo summit


    ST. LEO — Julie Huynh-Rusk lies down on the floor of a St. Leo University conference room, covered by a blanket and a pink eye-pillow.

    Julie Huynh-Rusk, 31, of Seattle, takes advantage of a meditation session at Saint Leo University on Wednesday as part of the Steel Mags Summer Summit. 
The Steel Mags Sorority was founded to help spouses, daughters, mothers, and sisters of  Green Berets. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]

  4. Watch: Sarasota vlogger goes on viral rant against MTV's 'Siesta Key'


    Looking forward to MTV’s Siesta Key? Well, this Florida native definitely is not.

    Vlogger Louie Carey posted his reaction to MTV's "Siesta Key" in a viral video.
  5. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 23: Of tiny towns, wonderful naps and dreamlike ice cream bars


    Day 23: Murias de Rechivaldo to Foncebadon: 20.8 km, 6 hours. Total for Days 1-23 = 541 km (336 miles)