TALLAHASSEE — Brevard County may be losing one of its county judges following a request by the Florida Supreme Court.
The request, made in December, has identified Brevard as one of six counties that has too many judges based on workload.
The issue of workload was raised by a study completed last year that monitored over 900 judges. It found that caseloads dropped 23 percent for county judges. This was attributed to the slowdown in drunk-driving lawsuits.
The report also found a 17 percent drop in caseloads for circuit judges between 2012 and 2014. The drop in real estate lawsuits was believed to be behind the decline.
Brevard County attorney Jeffrey Thompson said some of the findings in the report could be due to how the county court handles cases.
“It is my understanding that the way Brevard County counts cases is different from the way and more realistic than what other supposedly counties do,” Thompson told the Florida Record. “For example, if I understand correctly, in other counties if you get pulled over for speeding and then they arrest you for drunk driving, they will treat that as two cases, whereas here they don’t. It is treated as one case because it is handled as one case.”
Thompson said because of the unique way the county handles cases, there have been some “statistical reporting anomalies that have made it appear as though Brevard’s case load is less than perhaps other counties.”
He said he was not under the impression that county judges were overworked. He also said he didn’t know if losing one judgeship would have a big impact on the system.
“Everybody adapts, and so I don’t think it is going to dramatically harm the efficiency of county court," he said. “I don’t know how many cases will get spread out among the remaining judges, but I don’t really see it as being a catastrophe."
The Florida Supreme Court acknowledged that despite the drop in workload, some of the cases have been more complex and many litigants have opted to represent themselves, which demands more from the judges.
Other counties named by the state Supreme Court as having too many judges were Pasco, Putnam, Monroe, Charlotte and Collier.
The court said it would be monitoring the workload of several other counties to identify whether they are properly staffed.
“The court does not take this step lightly; rather, we do so recognizing that we must remain consistent in our application of the workload methodology and our obligations under Article V, section 9, of the Florida Constitution,” the court said in the document.
The document also indicated a need for more circuit judges, particularly in Orange and Oseola counties. There are 36 circuit judges working in Orange County and seven in Osceola, a total of 43 circuit judges in the 9th Judicial Circuit. The Florida Supreme Court requested that the Legislature add an additional four circuit judge positions for the state.
There has been no response from the Legislature, which has not added any new judges in the past 10 years.