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Measure would cut the number of DCA judges

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Sen. Erin Grall

Sen. Erin Grall

Lawmakers have filed bipartisan bills that would implement the Supreme Court’s recommendation for slowly phasing out “excess judicial capacity” in two state appellate courts.

Sen. Erin Grall, R-Ft. Pierce, and Rep. David Silvers, D-West Palm Beach, filed SB 490 and HB 457, respectively. Both lawmakers are attorneys.

Rep. David Silvers

Rep. David Silvers

The identical measures refer to a December 2022 Supreme Court order, SC2022-1621, “Certification of Need for Additional Judges” that addresses the need for judges in FY 2023-24.

Among other things, the order calls for gradually eliminating one judgeship in the First District Court of Appeal and three in the Second DCA.

“As we explained, the Court recommends that the Legislature address appellate judicial capacity over time by reducing the number of statutorily authorized judgeships based on attrition, without requiring a judge to vacate his or her position involuntarily,” the order states.

The proposed bills mirror the Supreme Court’s language.

The Constitution requires the Supreme Court every year to issue a determination of need for district courts and trial courts based on a complex calculation of caseloads. The “Weighted Caseload System” takes into account the differing amounts of time needed in different types of cases.

The order notes that this is the first certification since the Legislature agreed to create a new Sixth District Court of Appeal, which involved realigning the boundaries of the First, Second, and Fifth DCAs. It suggests that any bills addressing the “excess judicial capacity” in the two DCAs in the upcoming session “specify that, upon each occurrence of an event that otherwise would have resulted in a vacancy in the office of judge of the First District or Second District, the number of authorized judges shall be reduced by one, until a specified number of judges remain on each court; we recommend that eventually, after attrition, there be 12 judges authorized for each of those courts.”

The order goes on to explain that “the goal of the Court’s recommended approach, consistent with last year’s opinion on the creation of a new district court of appeal, is to address excess district court judicial capacity without prematurely ending the existing judge’s judicial career.”

HB 457 and SB 490 were filed September 14 and 15, respectively. Both bills have yet to receive committee references.

 

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