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Budget leaves out money for new judges

Jury selection began Monday, Feb. 3, 2014. The media and public was not allowed in the courtroom during the selection process, but can listen to an audio feed of the proceedings. After legal objections by the media, two reporters were allowed in the courtroom and single video feed of the proceedings was allowed to be shown to those in an overflow courtroom.
Jury selection began Monday, Feb. 3, 2014. The media and public was not allowed in the courtroom during the selection process, but can listen to an audio feed of the proceedings. After legal objections by the media, two reporters were allowed in the courtroom and single video feed of the proceedings was allowed to be shown to those in an overflow courtroom.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida lawmakers will not set aside money to add more judges across the state, despite the state Supreme Court suggesting a need for 35 new judges.

House Justice Appropriations Chairman Larry Metz, R-Yalaha, said Thursday the additional judgeships were not a top priority of the court system and that the Legislature focused on funding higher-priority issues. Lawmakers will approve a $78.7 billion budget Friday for the fiscal year starting July 1.

The Supreme Court in December said the state needed an additional three circuit judges and 32 county judges. The request came in an annual process known as a "certification of need" to the Legislature.

"As the state economy continues to steadily improve, we recognize that in a post-recessionary period competing demands for state funding persist across state government,'' the Supreme Court said. "We also note that, due in large part to the recession, the judicial branch has had no increase in trial court judges since 2007, despite a documented need."

The court said one additional circuit judge was needed in the 1st Judicial Circuit, which includes Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties. It said two additional circuit judges were needed in the 5th Judicial Circuit, which includes Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties.

The requested 32 county judges were primarily in heavily populated areas, including eight in Miami-Dade County, eight in Hillsborough County and five in Palm Beach County.