Florida Supreme Court delivers its wish list for new judges to the state Legislature

The Florida Supreme Court. Photo by Colin Hackley.

Florida needs to add 10 trial judges to keep up with caseloads in its trial courts, the Florida Supreme Court said Wednesday. However, the state can eliminate four judgeships within its county courts, the justices said.

In its annual assessment of the demand for judgeships in the state, the justices said there is no need to add judges in the five district courts of appeal.

At stake is how quickly people or businesses with legal claims can see them heard by a judge, or whether their cases might languish on some court’s docket.

The assessment applies to the 2010-21 fiscal year, covered by the state budget the Legislature will approve during its regular session beginning in January. The Legislature, of course, has final say.

The court saw the need to add two circuit judges within the 9th Judicial Circuit, covering Orange and Osceola counties; and one judge each in the 1st circuit, comprising Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Walton counties, and 14th circuit, made up of Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, and Washington counties.

Demand would justify four new county judgeships in Hillsborough County and one each in Lee and Orange.

“We decertify the need for two county court judgeships in Brevard County, one county court judgeship in Monroe County, and one county court judgeship in Collier County,” the court said.

In deriving the numbers, the court considers caseloads weighted by factors including the complexity of the cases handled. The totality of factors “warrants a more restrained approach to the decertification of trial court judgeships than the raw numbers alone would indicate,” the court said.

“Our evaluation of these matters takes into account developments in the way our courts perform their duties that are not currently captured by the weighted case load methodology. We also consider not only recently adopted legislation but also potential legislation and rule changes that could have significant impact.”

The court said it supports proposed legislation to shift jurisdiction over some appeals of county court rulings away from appellate panels of the circuit courts to the district courts of appeal, but said implementation should be set no earlier than Jan. 1, 2021, “to allow adequate time for judicial branch implementation.”

Michael Moline
Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.