In Re: Certification of Need for Additional Judges

Supreme Court of Florida ______________ No. SC17-1936 ______________ IN RE: CERTIFICATION OF NEED FOR ADDITIONAL JUDGES. [November 22, 2017] PER CURIAM. This opinion fulfills our constitutional obligation to determine the State’s need for additional judges in fiscal year 2018/2019 and to certify our “findings and recommendations concerning such need” to the Legislature.1 Certification is “the sole mechanism established by our constitution for a systematic and uniform 1. Article V, section 9, of the Florida Constitution provides in pertinent part: Determination of number of judges.—The supreme court shall establish by rule uniform criteria for the determination of the need for additional judges except supreme court justices, the necessity for decreasing the number of judges and for increasing, decreasing or redefining appellate districts and judicial circuits. If the supreme court finds that a need exists for increasing or decreasing the number of judges or increasing, decreasing or redefining appellate districts and judicial circuits, it shall, prior to the next regular session of the legislature, certify to the legislature its findings and recommendations concerning such need. assessment of this need.” In re Certification of Need for Additional Judges, 889 So. 2d 734, 735 (Fla. 2004). In this opinion, we are certifying a need for two additional circuit court judges, two additional county court judges, and none in the district courts of appeal as discussed below. We are also decertifying the need for thirteen county court judgeships. TRIAL COURTS The Florida Supreme Court continues to use a weighted caseload system as a primary basis for assessing judicial need for the trial courts.2 Using this objective threshold standard, we have examined case filing and disposition data, analyzed various judicial workload indicators, applied a three-year average judicial need, and considered judgeship requests submitted by the lower courts including all secondary factors identified by each chief judge for support of their requests. We have also incorporated a rigorous judicial workload per judge threshold analysis and an allowance for administrative time spent by chief judges and county court time spent on county election canvassing boards. Applying this methodology, this Court certifies the need for four additional judgeships statewide, two of which are in circuit court and two in county court. See Appendix. We are also decertifying thirteen county court judgeships. See Appendix. 2. Our certification methodology relies primarily on case weights and calculations of available judge time to determine the need for additional trial court judges. See Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.240. -2- As noted in previous opinions, our judges and court staff continue to work diligently to administer justice, promptly resolve disputes, and ensure that children, families, and businesses receive the proper amount of judicial attention for their cases. They do so despite a demonstrated need for additional judges since 2007 and with a smaller staffing complement. Our most recent analysis of trial court statistics from fiscal year 2015/2016 to preliminary data for fiscal year 2016/2017 indicates a ten percent increase in county civil filings (excluding civil traffic infractions), a five percent increase in circuit civil filings ...

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