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State Supreme Court Wants 35 New Judges

Florida needs 35 new judges next year to deal with a chronic backlog in the courts. That’s according to a report issued by the state supreme court. New judges are needed even though some of the workload is easing, including a 7-percent decline in felony juvenile delinquency cases.

The Legislature hasn’t funded any new trial court judges in seven years, justices say. The report recommends creating the bulk of the new judges, 32, in county courts.

Florida Bar president Greg Coleman agrees.

“Those caseloads are just huge and I used to be a prosecutor 27 years ago and I remember from then and it’s the same now.”

County judges preside over misdemeanor cases and lawsuits worth less than $15,000. Their dockets get bogged down when non-lawyers try to represent themselves, Coleman says.

The backlog is also the result of funding cuts in key court personnel, including clerks and magistrates. Justices also blame the need for more interpreters as the Asian and Hispanic population has grown in Central Florida.

A Miami native, former WFSU reporter Jim Ash is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, most of it in print. He has been a member of the Florida Capital Press Corps since 1992.