Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

State Supreme Court asks legislators to fund more judges

TAMPA — With no new judgeships in three years and fewer resources, Florida courts are struggling to keep up with increased demand on the system, the state Supreme Court said Thursday.

Case filings are up. Clearance rates are down. People are waiting longer to get their cases heard.

"Justice in many instances is delayed," Chief Justice Peggy A. Quince wrote.

The state's highest court is asking legislators to fund additional judicial positions — 37 in circuit court and 53 in county court — to help ease the burden.

Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, said he recognizes the need and wants to ensure access to the courts. But with the state facing a $3.2 billion budget shortfall, the judicial branch's chances for relief don't look great.

"Right now, we're just trying to figure out how do we keep the doors open with the expenses we have," said Crist, who heads the criminal and civil justice appropriations committee. "I don't know how we would be able to handle that at this time."

Chief judges for the Hillsborough and Pinellas-Pasco judicial circuits said they remained hopeful.

Thursday's request calls for one new circuit judge and three more county judges for Hillsborough County. The Pinellas-Pasco circuit needs two additional circuit judges, and Pinellas should get two county judges, justices said.

"Two more will allow us to keep our head above the water," said Pinellas-Pasco Chief Judge Thomas McGrady. "Right now, we're treading the best we can."

Five circuit court judges were requested for the five-county circuit that includes Citrus and Hernando. Citrus also needs another county court judgeship, according to the formula used by the Supreme Court.

Justices said court operations have suffered as budget reductions cut 290 support staff positions statewide. Judges have absorbed some of the workload of case managers, staff attorneys and hearing officers, resulting in delays as circuit court filings increased by 21 percent between fiscal 2006-07 and 2007-08.

Citizens "are being forced to wait inordinate periods of time for final resolution of their cases while judges find it more and more difficult to advance their dockets and clear out backlogged matters," Quince said.

If legislators can't provide new judgeships, the Supreme Court asked them to seriously consider restoring the support staff positions.

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

State Supreme Court asks legislators to fund more judges 02/25/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 25, 2010 11:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  2. Lego T-rex and scores of other brick sculptures free to see in Tampa

    News

    TAMPA — Envision the effort that went into building a basic Lego model with your kids. Now imagine arranging the same toys to look like the Mona Lisa or an 80,020-piece Tyrannosaurus rex.

    Eliana Goldberg, 5, of Wesley Chapel looks at a Lego sculpture called "Everlasting" at The Art of the Brick exhibit, which opened Friday in Tampa and runs through Sept. 4. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
  3. Rick Scott signs medical marijuana, 37 other bills into law

    Blogs

    Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott
  4. St. Pete qualifying ends. Seven for mayor. Eight for District 6 on primary ballot

    Blogs

    The smiles of the faces of the workers in the City Clerk’s office said it all. The qualifying period for city elections was almost over.

    City Clerk Chan Srinivasa (2nd left) and Senior Deputy City Clerk  Cathy Davis (1st left) celebrate the end of qualifying period with colleagues on Friday afternoon
  5. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county

    Water

    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.