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Courts make the case for another year of ‘Pandemic Recovery Plan’ funding

Senior Editor Top Stories

Florida courtsThe Florida Court system’s “Pandemic Recovery Plan” is working and deserves to be funded another year, Fourth Circuit Chief Judge Mark Mahon told a House committee on Tuesday.

Mahon, who is vice chair of the Trial Court Budget Commission, told the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee that annual appropriations of non-recurring dollars have been used to hire senior judges, case managers, and other temporary workers, and it’s working.

“We are making significant progress in reducing the backlog,” he said.

The courts are seeking $11.9 million in non-recurring money this year, an investment that would get the courts closer to “normal operations,” Mahon said.

“We feel relatively certain that we will make significant progress,” he said. “I can’t make guarantees.”

Mahon presented a chart that indicated substantial progress.

Beginning with 992,074 cases above normal workload on July 1, 2021, the chart shows steady declines — to 709,724 cases on July 1, 2022, and 440,863 cases on December 31, 2022. It projects a 210,252-case backlog by July 1 of this year.

The chart also tracks court system spending requests, and the Legislature’s response. The courts requested $12.5 million for Year 1 of the plan, and slightly more than $10 million for Year 2. Lawmakers appropriated nearly $9.5 million for Year 1, and slightly more than $10 million for Year 2.

Rep. Katherine Waldron, D-Wellington, asked Mahon to consider a “worst-case scenario.”

“Worst-case scenario, they don’t get the funding, what would that do to the backlog?” she asked.

“Unfortunately, it would probably slow down the administration of justice,” Mahon said.

The Legislature isn’t likely to reach agreement on a state spending plan until the end of the 60-day session that this year begins March 7.

After that, Gov. Ron DeSantis is likely to exercise his line-item veto authority. Last session, his $3.1 billion in vetoes eliminated a $50 million appropriation for a new facility for the Sixth District Court of Appeal.

 

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