Florida Court System Faces Funding Crisis
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Joel Brown, the chief judge of Florida's 11th Judicial Circuit in Miami-Dade County, has a question.
JOEL BROWN: Would you go into an operating room with just a surgeon? No operating room tech, no nurses. That's what we're looking at.
ALLEN: Brown isn't talking not about the cuts planned to publicly-funded health care in Florida. That's a story for a different day. Brown's talking about Florida's courts, which are in a budget crisis - one that could require employee furloughs and fewer support personnel for already overworked judges. The problem, says Judge Brown, is that the courts are funded through filing fees, and in recent years most of those filing fees have come from foreclosures, which have temporarily slowed down in Florida.
BROWN: Because the foreclosure filings have stopped, because of what has gone on in that industry, the filing fees have substantially been reduced.
ALLEN: Florida's Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady recently appealed to the legislature and to Governor Rick Scott for help. Canady asked them to approve a plan to cover a $72 million budget shortfall projected for the state courts between now and June 30. Without the money, Canady says, court functions across the state will be disrupted.
CHARLES CANADY: The criminal cases would have to receive priority, so the civil cases would be subjected to the disruption. And that would be very bad for our economy and bad for the citizens of Florida.
ALLEN: Chief Judge in the 11th Circuit Joel Brown says the proposed cuts raise a basic question about the intent of the governor and the legislature.
BROWN: It's a question of willingness, frankly, to fund an independent third branch of government - fully.
ALLEN: Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.
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