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Supreme Court asks for 10 new trial court judgeships

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Florida Supreme CourtFor the second year in a row, the Supreme Court is calling for two new circuit judgeships in the Ninth Circuit and one each in the First and 14th circuits as well as four new county judgeships in Hillsborough County.

In its annual certification opinion released November 27, the court also called for new county judgeships in Orange and Lee counties.

The court decertified two county judgeships in Brevard County (as it did last year) and one each in Monroe and Collier counties.

In 2018, the court asked for four new circuit judgeships and four county judgeships and decertified the two county judge posts in Brevard County and one in Pasco County. Earlier this year, the Legislature ultimately approved one new circuit judge each in the Ninth and 12th circuits and one new county judge each in Flagler and Citrus counties. Only the Ninth Circuit seat was among those certified by the court.

The court continued the trend of recent years of decertifying some judicial seats as not needed, but the Legislature has yet to approve eliminating any judicial seats.

The annual opinion did not seek any additional judges for the state’s five district courts of appeal.

The court said it used a “verified objective weighted caseload methodology” in determining judicial workloads and needs, as it has in previous years. But it also said it took into account other factors, including the Legislature’s increase of county court civil jurisdiction from $15,000 to $30,000, effective January 1 and raising it to $50,000 on January 1, 2023.

Another factor was the court’s recent recommendation to the Legislature to end having circuit courts hear appeals from county court decisions and instead have those appeals go to the DCAs.

In addition, “Trial court judges have expressed concerns about a need to review and possibly refine the method for reporting on the increased number and types of problem-solving courts [such as mental health, veterans, and drug courts] throughout the state and the increased number of cases handled by those problem-solving courts. It is important for this Court, in its assessment of judicial need, to evaluate the impact on judicial workload the problem-solving courts create and, if necessary, update the associated case weights. While problem-solving courts show positive results in reduced recidivism and better outcomes in many cases, they also require significantly more judicial time,” the court said.

“Finally, this Court is awaiting the results of an important review it has ordered, which may lead to revision of the rules we employ to determine judicial need,” the court said. “Specifically, this Court has directed the Commission on Trial Court Performance and Accountability to review secondary factors impacting judicial certification to determine if there are areas of inconsistency between the case weights and current judicial assignments. The Commission is reviewing rules 2.240(b)(1)(B) and 2.240(c), Florida Rules of Judicial Administration, to determine if there is a need to recommend any suggested modifications.”

The court acted in In re: Certification of Need for Additional Judges, Case No. SC19-1907.

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