The Florida Bar
www.floridabar.org

State Court Funding

On This Page
I. Issue
II. Florida Bar Position
III. American Bar Association Position
IV. Background
V. Facts and Statistics


I. Issue

Adequate funding of the courts in Florida is a necessity to ensure justice to all Floridians. The ever increasing caseloads in our state's and nation's courts are quickly creating an overburdened and underfunded system which is barely able to keep up with the constitutional speedy trial rule for criminal cases. The delay of civil cases in some jurisdictions is sometimes as much as five years.

The economic burden of funding the courts in Florida is shared between the funds allocated by the Legislature and the counties. The justice system components of state budgets represents only one to three percent of the total, the threat of decreased funding is real in today's economy.
The American Bar Association Special Committee on Funding the Justice System commissioned a national survey of the justice system in the 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine the depth and breadth of the funding crisis in the justice system. The survey which occurred between January 1, 1990 and February 1, 1992 found that Florida ranks last among states in per capita funding for the justice system.
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II. Florida Bar Position

The Florida Bar has had several legislative positions pertaining to the funding of the justice system.

The Florida Bar, in the past, has:
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III. American Bar Association Position

In August 1991, the ABA House of Delegates adopted a resolution that the "highest priority of the bar and bench must be to promote improvements in the American system of justice by ensuring balanced and adequate funding for, and timely access to, the entire justice system . . . ." The ABA is currently investigating what other actions may be taken to improve public access to courts.
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IV. Background

Florida overhauled its state court system in 1972 with the adoption of Article V to the Florida Constitution. Approximately 14 different types of courts of varying jurisdiction were deleted as a result of Article V. The implied intent of the Article V amendment was to create a uniform two­tier trial court system following rules of procedure with statewide consistency. The 1982 implementation of the Summary Reporting System which is overseen by the Office of the State Courts Administrator is a positive move toward the goal of a uniform system of courts. Another implied promise of Article V was to eliminate the dependence on fines and filing fees set by judicial officers who were influenced by the need to fund their courts and generate revenue. The most important goal implied in Article V was to create a state­funded, independent Judicial Branch of government which would include all courts in the state. The benefits of full state funding include the need to ensure uniform citizen access to the courts and the need to insulate the judicial process from political consideration.

The very positive ideal of a state funded, and therefore, independent judicial system seems to be far from reality. The state budget for the courts constituted less than ½ of one percent of the total state expenditure budgeted for fiscal year 1995­96. Counties have continued to shoulder a substantial portion of the costs of operating the trial courts and related functions. The State of Florida funds the expenses and operating capital outlay of the Supreme Court and the District Courts of Appeal with judicial personnel costs and expenses for circuit and county courts. The counties pay for the building and maintenance of the court facilities and the salaries of support staff for the county courts.

During the 1997 Legislative Session HB 1319 became a law on May 30, 1997, without the Governor's signature. This bill will provide about $54 million to the County Article V Trust Fund, over a four­year period beginning in July 1998, to be disbursed to counties only for Article V costs under a plan set by a 15­member committee representing small, medium, and large counties, subject to approval by the Supreme Court.

On September 1, 1997 the 1998/99 Legislative Budget Request was filed with the Legislature to be taken up as an issue of consideration for the 1998 General Appropriations Act. One of the critical issues included was a request for additional funding to continue support for improving small county courthouse facilities, and to increase the amount the state pays toward court reporting services.

On November 5, 1998 the public voted for Constitutional Revision 7 which will bring changes to the state court funding system, addressing the allocation of Article V funding. The public voted 56.9% for approval of the Revision and 43.1% against. The revision assigns the state the responsibility for funding the State Court System, state attorneys' offices, public defenders' offices, and court­appointed counsel. Funding for the offices of the clerks of the court performing court­related functions will be paid for from filing fees and service charges of court users, with the state providing any additional funds needed. Counties will be required to fund the cost of construction, lease, maintenance, utilities, and securities of facilities for the trial courts, as well as the costs of communication services, existing radio systems, and multi­agency criminal justice information systems.

This brings a shift in much of the courts' funding from the counties, to the state and the users of the system. Revision 7 is being put into practice by means of a schedule, which spreads the changes out over a number of years.
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V. Facts and Statistics



Prepared by The Florida Bar Department of Public Information and Bar Services and the Office of the State Courts Administrator.
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[Revised: 5/26/05]