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House eyes changes in judicial pay

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(Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Low-performing Florida judges could have their pay cut under a performance model reviewed Tuesday by the House Appropriations Committee.

Under the plan, the top 25 percent of judges would be in line for pay raises under a system that would measure performance based on issues like case clearance rates and the time it takes to dispose of cases.

The middle judges, ranging from 26 to 74 percent, would maintain their base pay, while the bottom 25 percent would get a pay cut.

House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, said his committee staff will continue to review the model, although no final decision has been made.

But Trujillo said the House is "definitely trying to move the state towards a more competitive model for all workforce and all pay."

Another issue under scrutiny by the House budget panel is the process of certifying the need for new judges each year.

In December, the state Supreme Court certified the need for 12 new judges, including four circuit judges and eight county judges.

Trujillo said he is troubled by that request, given a House report showing the number of court cases has declined over the last decade.

Cases reached a peak of 1.2 million in 2008-09, driven in part by foreclosure cases caused by the recession, down to less than 756,000 cases in the last budget year, the House report showed.

However, Trujillo said there is a lack of "real time data" about the status of the cases in the court system, putting into question the methodology for determining the need for new judges.

He said the House would be working with the judiciary as well as court clerks, who perform administration functions in the circuits, to develop a more efficient information system.