'Taj Mahal' courthouse
Don't ignore courts' real needs
The Florida Bar joins those who are disturbed by the process by which the new 1st District Court of Appeal building was funded. We support a full review of that process, including an examination of how costs for the building can be further reduced and the space used more efficiently or economically.
But this controversy is a dangerous distraction from what is urgently needed in Florida: an adequately funded court system that can resolve disputes in a timely manner. Funding for our state courts should not be confused with granite countertops and big-screen TVs; courts are much more than bricks and mortar.
At the core, our courts are people: the judges, the legal representatives, the staff and the citizens who seek justice. Floridians in the throes of family matters like divorce and custody, those who are losing their homes to foreclosure and those who are victims of crime deserve a court system able to meet the needs of all of our state's nearly 19 million citizens.
Budgets have been cut and judges' pay reduced, but the people in our courts continue to work harder than ever to address growing case loads. Further delaying access to justice is the fact that Florida's number of judges for every 1,000 citizens is substantially below the national average. However, positive strides have been made in the past several years to work toward adequately funding our courts, and we cannot let the current controversy set us back.
Floridians must have their day in court in a timely manner with skilled court personnel. While we must scrutinize the process, the new building must not detract from the larger goal of ensuring a judicial system that can meet Florida's needs. Every Floridian will be at risk if our courts and judges are penalized for the questionable actions of a few.
Mayanne Downs, president, Florida Bar, Orlando
Raised by the courts | Oct. 10
Judge will be missed
I admire Judge Irene Sullivan for sharing her family-court memoirs. I also want to thank her for not shying away from "the elephant in my courtroom" regarding the disproportionate number of black males who appear before her. She is correct when she identifies unwed teenage pregnancy as the root of this disparity.
Then again, unwed parenthood has been the elephant in the room in black America for decades now. Civil rights organizations and black ministers have ignored it, and many scholars have rationalized it, but it remains the major source of all our social ills.
Judge Sullivan will be missed when she retires in a few months. If we want to stop filling her courtroom with young black males, some introspection is in order. Otherwise it will remain a "pipeline to prison."
Joseph H. Brown, Tampa
Uniforms set the tone
I would like to congratulate Bill Maxwell for his column on uniforms in school. He is right in saying that uniforms are more conducive to the learning environment. Uniforms set the tone that learning is a serious issue and prevent distractions as to who is wearing what or who needs to be checked out due to his or her outfit.
It is high time that the Pinellas school board got off the fence and did something. In fact, the call for uniforms does not go far enough as it should include high school students and even teachers.
Peter Serbanos, Clearwater
It's a gimmick
I think the consideration of school uniforms is a cowardly and gimmick-ridden way to mask the problems the district is having.
Our children already have had their creativity stifled by the rigid standards prescribed by FCAT, where neither teacher nor student gets to explore subjects outside the box and where teaching to the test is now a goal so the district can get the funding it so badly craves.
Creative classes and electives have been slashed to make room for more fundamentals for the lower-achieving kids. Now the board wants to take away students' freedom to wear clothes that appropriately express their personalities?
It seems like the board is throwing random ideas up to see if they stick because they really have no idea what to do that will work.
Heidi Kay, Tarpon Springs