Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Filing fees, fines alone cannot cover court system costs, judges tell lawmakers

TALLAHASSEE — Lawmakers on Tuesday mulled suggestions from the judicial branch for stabilizing the oft-depleted budgets of courts and county clerks.

Since July 1, the state court system has needed nearly $100 million in loans to pay for operations because court filing fees and fines aren't covering court operations. County clerks say they need $36 million to get through March.

But in a report, a work group of a dozen judges and clerks said fees and fines alone were never intended to cover the entire system and asked lawmakers to direct general revenue dollars — money largely generated through state sales tax collections — to help pay for parts of the judicial system.

Members of the Senate Budget Committee praised the work group for offering suggestions but did not commit to honoring the recommendations, which included establishing a reserve fund.

Court revenues have fallen sharply below projections as a result of declines in mortgage foreclosure fees.

"The last thing we want is any serious concerns about having to furlough judges or not have the court system functioning properly," said Budget Committee Chairman Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales.

Polk County Circuit Court Judge John Laurent, a former Republican state senator and the work group's co-chairman, suggested funding what he called "due process" services, such as salaries for judges and court interpreters and reporters, with general revenue funds. Other operations could be paid for by fees, he said.

The judicial panel did not propose to raise fees or fines as a solution for the shortfalls. Florida's initial civil filing fee already is the second-highest in the nation, the panel said.

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, and a lawyer, said fees have "gotten out of whack" for constituents and that the court system likely would require some additional funding from the state.

"We don't see the legislative branch having bake sales to pay for what we need. We don't see the executive branch borrowing money," Negron said. "We need to restore the courts system to its proper place in our system of government."

Katie Sanders can be reached at

Filing fees, fines alone cannot cover court system costs, judges tell lawmakers 11/01/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 11:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Navy parachutist dies during demonstration over Hudson River


    JERSEY CITY, N.J. — In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, a Navy Seal team member fell to his death Sunday after his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the Hudson River.

    Officials surround a U.S. Navy Seal's parachute that landed in a parking lot after the parachutist fell into the Hudson River when his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the river in Jersey City, N.J. The Navy said the parachutist was pronounced dead at Jersey City Medical Center. [Joe Shine | Jersey Journal via AP]
  2. As White House defends Jared Kushner, experts question his alleged back-channel move


    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration argued over the weekend that back-channel communications are acceptable in building dialogue with foreign governments, part of an effort to minimize fallout over White House adviser Jared Kushner's reported discussion about creating a secret conduit to the Kremlin at a Russian …

    President-elect Donald Trump embraces son in law Jared Kushner, as his daughter Ivanka Trump stands nearby, after his acceptance speech at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of Nov. 9. [Mark Wilson | Getty Images]
  3. Sunstar ambulance unit overturns at Drew Street intersection in Clearwater, prompts road closures


    The intersection of Drew Street and Fort Harrison Avenue in Clearwater is closed following a crash that involved a Sunstar ambulance unit, according to the Clearwater Police Department.

    A Sunstar unit flipped in the intersection of Drew Street and Ford Harrison Avenue in Clearwater Monday morning after a car reportedly ran a red light and struck the ambulance, according to the Clearwater Police Department.
  4. Merkel spokesman: Germany still seeking stronger U.S. ties


    BERLIN — Berlin remains committed to strong trans-Atlantic relations, but Chancellor Angela Merkel's suggestion after meetings with President Donald Trump that Europe can no longer entirely rely on the U.S. "speaks for itself," her spokesman said Monday

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a speech during an election campaign of her Christian Democratic Union, CDU, and the Christian Social Union, CSU, in Munich, southern Germany, Sunday. Merkel is urging European Union nations to stick together in the face of new uncertainty over the United States and other challenges. [Matthias Balk/dpa via AP]
  5. Tampa police: 46 arrests, 47 ejections at two-day Sunset Music Festival

    Public Safety

    Times staff

    TAMPA — In a preliminary tally Monday morning, police declared there were "no major incidents" during the two-day Sunset Music Festival at Raymond James Stadium but boosted the number of arrests and rejections they provided in earlier reports during the weekend.

    A Tampa Fire Rescue all-terrain vehicle patrols the parking area north of Raymond James Stadum on Sunday, day two of the Sunset Music Festival. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]