first_imgWhen it was all said and done, legislators add 55 new judges June 1, 2005 Senior Editor Regular News When it was all said and done, legislators add 55 new judges That’s half the number wanted and they all will be appointed Gary Blankenship Senior Editor Florida’s courts will get 35 new circuit judges and 20 new county judges following action by the Florida Legislature in the closing days of its 2005 regular session.That is half of the 110 new judges certified as needed by the Florida Supreme Court, but it’s the first time in the past three years that lawmakers have approved any of the new judges requested by the courts.The new judges will come in two batches appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush. Eighteen circuit and 10 county judges will be appointed as of November, and 17 circuit and 10 county judges will be effective in January. The Supreme Court had certified a total of 67 new circuit judges, 41 county judges, and two district court of appeal judges. Neither of the DCA slots, one for the Second DCA and one for the Fifth, was approved this year.“The governor recognized the need to fund all of the judges certified by the court this year, and we are grateful for his leadership,” Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Pariente said. “We are very appreciative that the legislature, under the leadership of [Senate] President [Tom] Lee [R-Brandon] and [House] Speaker [Allan] Bense [R-Panama City], has begun recognizing the pressing need for new trial judges throughout our state, with its funding this year of 55 new judges around the state.”The judicial certification bill wound up becoming some of the last-minute drama in the session. According to news reports, hard feelings between Rep. Bruce Kyle, R-Ft. Myers, chair of the House Justice Council and sponsor of the House certification bill, and Senate President Tom Lee, R-Brandon, and other senators resulted in the Senate version of the bill having no new county or circuit judges in Kyle’s home 20th Circuit.In every other circuit or county where the court requested new judges, at least one was approved.Kyle attempted to amend the Senate bill on the House floor late on the last day of the session, but his amendment was denied by a voice vote. Reportedly other House members feared the Senate would not agree to any changes and that no new judges would be approved. Kyle then urged House members to support the Senate bill so that some new judges would be approved.“The Senate wanted to fund half of the judges this year and half of the judges next year,” said Rep. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, chair of the House Fiscal Council, which oversees the budget. “Ultimately, we funded one half this year. I think there’s a general understanding we’ll fund the remainder next year, but that’s a goal we’ll have to set for next year.”As for the dispute over 20th Circuit judgeships, Negron said, “The Senate did not want to fund any new judges for the 20th Circuit. That was the political reality I had to deal with.. . . I didn’t think it was appropriate to jettison the entire judicial certification because of a political dispute.”The House had started out seeking to fund all but the two DCA slots, while the Senate leaders said they wanted half this year and half next year.Here’s a circuit-by-circuit look at how many circuit judgeships were certified and the number approved by the legislature:• In the First Circuit, the court certified three new judgeships, and the circuit will get one new judge in November.• In the Second Circuit, the court asked for two more judges, and one new judgeship will be created in November.• In the Third Circuit, the court asked for one more judge, and the legislature approved that for January.• In the Fourth Circuit, the court asked for two new judges, and one new slot will be created in January.• In the Fifth Circuit, the court asked for seven new judges, and lawmakers approved two for November and one for January.• In the Sixth Circuit, the court asked for five new judges, and legislators approved one in November and two in January.• In the Seventh Circuit, the court asked for four new judges, and the legislature approved one in November and a second in January.• In the Eighth Circuit, the court asked for one new judge, and the legislature approved that for November.• In the Ninth Circuit, the court asked for five more judges, and the legislature approved one in November and one in January.• In the 10th Circuit, the court asked for seven judges and the legislators approved two in November and two in January.• In the 11th Circuit, the court asked for seven new judges, and legislators approved two in November and one in January.• In the 13th Circuit, the court certified six new judges, and legislators approved two in November and two in January.• In the 14th Circuit, the court asked for one more judge, and lawmakers approved that, effective in January.• In the 15th Circuit, the court asked for one new judge, and lawmakers approved that effective in November.• In the 17th Circuit, the court asked for six new judges, and legislators approved one in November and two in January.• In the 18th Circuit, the court asked for two new judges, and lawmakers approved one effective in January.• In the 19th Circuit, the court asked for four more judges, and legislators approved two in November and one in January.• In the 20th Circuit, the court asked for three new judges, and none were approved.For county judgeships:• In Bay County, the court asked for one judge, and got that, effective in November.• In Brevard County, the court asked for four judges, and got one effective in January.• In Broward County, the court asked for six judges, and got one in November and one in January.• In Collier County, the court asked for two new judges, and none were approved.• In Duval County, the court asked for one new judge, and that was approved effective in November.• In Hernando County, the court asked for one new judge, and that was approved as of November.• In Hillsborough County, the court asked for four judges, and got one in November and a second in January.• In Lake County, the court asked for one new judge, and that was approved as of January.• In Lee County, the court asked for one new judge and that was not approved.• In Manatee County, the court asked for one judge, and got that effective in November.• In Marion County, the court asked for two new judges, and got one effective in November.• In Martin County, the court asked for one judge, and got that in January.• In Miami-Dade County, the court asked for two judges, and got one effective in January.• In Orange County, the court asked for three judges, and got one effective in November.• In Palm Beach County, the court asked for two judges, and got one, effective in January.• In Pasco County, the court asked for two new judges, and got one effective in January.• In Pinellas County, the court asked for four new judges, and got one effective in November.• In St. Lucie County, the court asked for one judge, and got that in November.• In Seminole County, the court asked for one judge, and got one in January.• In Volusia County, the court asked for one new judge, and got that effective in January.The bill that passed the legislature, in addition to creating the new judgeships, approved hiring 65 additional positions (mostly judicial assistants) and appropriated $8.5 million to pay for the new judicial and support positions.The action leaves the Supreme Court and legislature looking ahead to next year. “If we could get 55 funded next year, I would be very happy with that,” Negron said.Although lawmakers have pledged to fund 55 more judges next year, the state constitution requires the Supreme Court to issue an annual certification opinion, making it possible the court will ask for a higher number.“Florida is the fourth most populous state, and it continues to grow rapidly,” Chief Justice Pariente said. “Our judges over the last few years have shown a remarkable work ethic in attempting to keep pace despite rising populations and growing dockets. Unfortunately, our system of justice remains strained. The legislature has taken an important step with its funding of 50 percent of our certification request. Its actions this year will help ensure that justice is not delayed because of a shortage of judges.“We are optimistic that next year the legislature, in accordance with the pledge of its leaders, will fund the full complement of judges in accordance with the court’s certification of need we will issue before the 2006 session.”last_img read more