Justice delayed by judge shortage

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gavelAction News reports on a problem that we see every day in our practice of law.  Reporters have discovered the shortage of justices compared to the number of court cases is overwhelming the system. Apparently, there is a new plan to deal with the problem.

Whether it is a criminal case or a personal injury case, delays are common in Florida. The thought among most lawyers and judges is that more cases go to trial rather than a pre-trial settlement.  It is common for us to tell clients, that a case from start to finish can take two to two and a half years,  and sometimes it can even take longer.

According to the Florida Supreme Court, the state needs 46 more County Court judges, including four in Duval County. Duval also needs three District Court judges.   The justices acknowledged in their request that as the state’s economy emerges from recession, they are mindful of the competing funding needs within state government and asked the Legislature to give priority to issues requested in the Judicial Branch’s FY 2014/2015 Legislative Budget Request.

The court said several chief judges reference high jury trial rates, substantial pending caseloads, and reduced clearance rates as workload trends continue to impact the trial courts. In addition, seasoned judges throughout the state continue to report that statutory revisions requiring additional hearings for certain case types contribute to case complexity and additional judicial workload. Some chief judges also note the effect of self-represented litigants on court time and resources, factors that contribute to judicial workload and court delay.

It’s been seven years since the Legislature created any new judgeships.

The court said county court workload remains high, with judicial need holding steady. Self-represented litigants also continue to impact county courts as they do circuit courts.

The Florida Legislature and Governor Rick Scott must approve the funding for new judges before they can take the bench. The Governor’s staff tells Action News he is currently evaluating the needs of the Judicial Branch as he works on a budget proposal.
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