Supreme Court Asks Lawmakers For A Dozen New Judges

Dec 19, 2016

After an exhaustive study, the Florida Supreme Court is recommending the Legislature pay for a dozen new trial judges. But in a rare move, justices are also “decertifying” six county court judges.

The Florida Supreme Court wants lawmakers to pay for a dozen new trial judges, but in an unusual move, they are also "decertifying" the need for six county judges.

As part of the study, nearly every judge in Florida spent a month logging their workdays down to five-minute increments. The result is a new system for certifying the need for new, or fewer, judges.

Justices concluded the state needs four new circuit judges and eight new county judges. But they also recommended eliminating six county judge positions, one each in Pasco, Putnam, Monroe, Brevard, Charlotte and Collier counties.

The report is already generating some grumbling. But Chief Leon County Circuit Judge Jonathan Sjostrom, who served on a study commission, is impressed.

“It really is sort of the gold standard of evidence-based studies of judicial workload. So I think the commission did a good job, I think the study is valid.”

Critics point out that the court’s requests for new judges have varied widely in recent years, from just a few to an eye-opening 67 in 2004. The Legislature has been more consistent – it hasn’t funded a new trial judge in decade.

Even if the Legislature agreed not to fund the six county judges, the Constitution says they would be able to remain on the bench until the end of their six-year terms.