Call for new judges comes up short in special session

first_img January 1, 2005 Jan Pudlow Associate Editor Regular News Call for new judges comes up short in special session The effort will be renewed when legislators reconvene in March Associate Editor A bill touted as a first step toward delivering desperately needed new trial judges unanimously passed the House Fiscal Council December 16, but went nowhere in the special session when it did not get an audience in the Senate.HB 23A, filed by Rep. Bruce Kyle, R-Ft. Myers, would have created 20 new judges — only a fraction of the 110 judges the Supreme Court has certified as critically needed in Florida’s trial courts — and Kyle vowed to push for more judges during the regular session that begins March 8.Kyle’s proposal calls for an additional judge for each circuit, except the 12th and 17th, and a pair of county judges, one for Collier and one for Martin.But on the special session’s final day, Senate President Tom Lee, R-Brandon, indicated he did not view the situation as a big enough emergency to expand the call of the special session on pre-kindergarten, but promised to address the need for judges during the regular session.“It is a sleeping giant. At least, in the House, it has gotten up,” said Kyle, who said he has at least 76 sponsors on the bill.“I think people finally realize there is a need out there. I am confident, at least out of the House, there will be more judges in the regular session.. . . The resounding theme, as I was getting signatures, was that everyone anticipates doing more judges in the regular session. And I do, too.”Kyle, a prosecutor and chair of the House Justice Council, said he filed the bill — with the support of House Speaker Allan Bense, R-Panama City, and with help from Rep. Jack Seiler, D-Pompano Beach, and Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach — “because we haven’t had any new judges since 2002. The Supreme Court certified 110 new judges, and so there is a definite need.”At the Fiscal Council meeting, Rep. Curtis Richardson, D-Tallahassee, asked, “Does this have the support of the chief justice of the Supreme Court?”Kyle responded: “I talked personally, before I filed the bill, with the chief justice at length. And she is supportive of any new judges that we could get, because there has been a long, outstanding need.”Every circuit that was certified for additional judges by the Supreme Court, Kyle explained, would get at least one circuit court judge, according to his revised bill. The original version of his bill called for 14 additional judges, which he explained was arrived at by “the ones we had actually done in 2002, subtracted from the certification of 2001. Those 14 were the most outstanding.. . . that need has been there for closing in on five years. This is a member-driven process. There is a lot of need throughout the state.”Kyle’s bill would make the new judgeships effective March 1, but he wants the enacting dates spread out in July and January.“That is good for the Governor’s Office, as well, because it lessens the workload. When you’ve got 110, if you do them all at one time, that’s a lot of interviews,” Kyle said referring to the number of names sent to the judicial nominating commissions for consideration.“Some circuits are certified for seven new judges, and I think you’ll get a better quality of applicants, too, by spreading it out, rather than jamming it up all at once.”The proposal for 20 additional judges and support personnel came with an annual price tag of $5.1 million. Call for new judges comes up short in special sessionlast_img