TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Foreclosures continue to clog courtrooms, and judges have to take on the work that former staff used to do, leading the Supreme Court to say Thursday that 63 new judges and one new appeals court judge are needed in the state.
The court noted that it's not as bad as it could be – because crime is down and a drop in juvenile delinquency filings is expected with changes being made by state juvenile justice officials.
The court also noted that lawmakers provided extra money last year that allowed the courts to bring in more judges, and that they're also benefitting from getting money from a national mortgage settlement agreement, which is making things a big easier.
But there's still a need for more judges – though the court acknowledged it's not like there's plenty of money to go around.
"We observe that state revenues, while gradually improving, continue to lag, thereby creating competition between funding new judgeships and attending to other critical state needs," the court said in its opinion certifying the need for additional judges. "Yet, as we have noted in previous opinions, our judges and court staff continue to work conscientiously to administer justice and resolve disputes promptly. They do so despite a demonstrated need for new judges and with a smaller staffing complement."
"…Workload associated with the residential mortgage foreclosure crisis continues to impede disposition times and rates in our circuit civil divisions," the court said.
But a bigger problem may be that recent cuts in court staff for budget reasons have meant more work for judges that used to be done by those staffers.
"Several of the chief judges cited problems of fewer staff to assist with case processing matters…." the court said. "Our judges continue to absorb the work previously performed by case managers, law clerks, magistrates, and other supplemental support staff lost in the budget reductions of recent years."
The court, after examining case data and judicial workload, and looking at a three year average need, said it was officially certifying the need for 16 new circuit judges and 47 county court judges.
The court also said The Second District Court of Appeal needs one more judge, although the DCA had asked for two.