TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In its annual report, the Florida Supreme Court recently recommended to the state legislators the establishment of 12 new judge seats, recognizing existing workload demands and the need to meet the projected demand involving up-coming cases.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, the new positions, which would be the first newly created judgeships in a decade, would be created across the state, while six county-judge positions are expected to be eliminated — one each in Brevard, Charlotte, Collier, Monroe, Pasco, and Putnam counties.
Among the recommended new positions are: One seat for the 5th Judicial Circuit (Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties); one each for Broward, Citrus, Flagler, Lee, and Palm Beach counties; three seats for the 9th Judicial Circuit (Orange and Osceola counties); and three seats for Hillsborough County.
No appeals-court positions were recommended for creation, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
“Florida’s judicial-branch commitment to fair and timely access to justice is among its core values, expressed in its vision statement: ‘Justice in Florida will be accessible, fair, effective, responsive, and accountable. To be accessible, the Florida justice system will be convenient, understandable, timely, and affordable to everyone,'" Paul Flemming, public-information officer for the Florida Office of the State Courts Administrator, told The Florida Record.
The need for judges is assessed annually, according to the Florida Supreme Court website.
“Each year, the Supreme Court issues its opinion certifying the need for new judges throughout the state of Florida, an annual requirement imposed upon the court by the state Constitution,” the website said. “This annual opinion sets the presumed number of new judges that could be created in local counties and circuits. However, the Legislature has the final say as to whether new judgeships are created and funded. The authorization for this process is contained in Article V, section 9 of the Florida Constitution.”
“Forecasts are done by the OSCA staff, in a process described as ‘projections derived using the Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average (ARIMA) forecasting technique,’ which projects the future values of a series based entirely on its own inertia,” Flemming said.
The decision to add judges did not come lightly, the Supreme Court judges wrote in their recommendation, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
“For district courts and trial courts, the determination for need is based on a complex calculation of caseloads. The Supreme Court uses a statistical system for determining caseloads that takes into account the differing amounts of time needed in different kinds of cases,” the Supreme Court website further said. “More complex kinds of cases receive greater weight under this system than simpler cases. It is called the 'Weighted Caseload System.' Thus, the certification is not a statement of what the Supreme Court simply wants, but rather what it has determined is objectively needed using the calculations dictated by the weighted caseload system.”