The Florida Bar

Statement by Florida Bar President John G. White, III Regarding Funding of the State Courts, March 5, 2009

“Stabilizing funding for our state courts is a top priority of The Florida Bar. These bills (HB 1121 and SB 2108) initiate a re-evaluation of all court-related revenue by directing filing fees to trust funds for the courts. The bills incorporate many of the goals spelled out by Supreme Court Chief Justice Peggy Quince for improving operations and financing for the court system which The Florida Bar has formally adopted as a legislative position.

“The Florida Bar will support the work of the judiciary in its efforts to help the Legislature identify efficiencies in the work of the courts, including the efficiencies identified in these bills.

“Above all, Florida’s court must be able to maintain the timely administration of justice and to preserve the viability of the court system. Therefore new financial practices should be considered to better stabilize the operations of the courts during these times of economic crisis.

“The State Courts System accounts for only 0.7% of the total state budget even though it handles millions of cases every year. Most of the court system’s budget – 87% – is devoted to salaries, half of which pay the salaries of judges as constitutionally mandated. The remaining salary dollars fund essential support and professional operational functions that are critically important to administering an efficient and effective court system. Budget reductions, such as those already implemented, disproportionately erode the funding for the support necessary for our courts to perform their constitutional functions.

“Unlike other parts of government, the court system does not have the scale or range of activities and projects to absorb significant budget cuts because it has a very specific mission. Judges, magistrates, and court support personnel have one essential purpose – to ensure that society has a forum for the peaceful and orderly resolution of disputes in a timely manner. Without the courts functioning fully, Floridians will be deprived of fundamental constitutional due process. In addition, there would be no safeguard to ensure adherence to the laws made and executed by the other two branches of government.”

[Revised: 05-26-2011]