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February 15, 2012
Cannon works to protect judicial branch funding

Wants to avoid antagonism between the branches

By Mark D. Killian
Managing Editor

A year ago, the judicial branch was bracing for yet another round of belt- tightening as the Legislature struggled to cope with a $3.7 billion revenue decline.

Jake Schickel, House Speaker Dean Cannon, Bruce Blackwell, Kelly Overstreet Johnson, and Justice Jorge Labarga But when the final budget was being negotiated, the final House offer — at the behest of House Speaker Dean Cannon — restored the proposed cuts to the courts, public defenders, and state attorneys.

“This year I intend to do that or better again,” Cannon told those gathered at the Florida Supreme Court Historical Society’s Annual Dinner in Tallahassee January 26.

The Winter Park Republican said he also supports additional funding this year for senior judges to help alleviate the mortgage foreclosure backlog clogging the courts “and do what we can to support and enhance the efficient functioning of our judicial branch.”

He also told the assembly of judges and lawyers that one of the hallmarks of American democracy is the “ability for reasonable people to disagree” and resolve those differences “in our courts and our political institutions through zealous advocacy and fervent debate instead of less productive means as they do in other countries.”

Sometimes, however, Cannon said our public conversation can become counterproductive and reach a point where we do not distinguish between ideas on which we disagree and people promoting those ideas.

“The truth is, we all — each one of us — bear some responsibility to ensure that our dialog . . . honors the precious constitutional privilege that we have to debate any issue and any idea of any stripe in the free marketplace of ideas in a healthy and statesmanlike manner.”

Cannon noted that last session he proposed legislation that, among other things, would have split the Supreme Court into separate civil and criminal supreme courts, and expanded the number of justices.

“Some of those ideas were bold and were provocative and were purposefully designed to provoke a discussion about the issues and the dialog about those issues that we all care about: the efficient, fair, and impartial functioning of our independent judicial branch,” Cannon said. “To the degree that any of those statements from me — or anyone else — contributed to an antagonistic tone, instead of a productive dialog, I offer my personal apology.”

[Revised: 01-27-2013]