January 1, 2006 Regular News Court calls for 66 new judges Court calls for 66 new judges The circuits need 40, the counties, 24, and DCAs, two Mark Killian Managing Editor The state needs 66 new judges to fulfill the “guarantee of timely and meaningful access to justice for the people of Florida,” according to the Supreme Court.In its annual certification opinion released December 15, the court said Florida needs 40 new circuit, 24 new county, and two new district courts of appeal judges.Writing for a unanimous court, Chief Justice Barbara Pariente said the gap between the certified need and the authorization of new judges was “significantly narrowed” during the 2005 legislative session when 55 new judgeships were created. Another four also were authorized in December’s special session.“However, even with the new positions, judicial workload remains high,” Chief Justice Pariente said. “Florida, the nation’s fourth largest state, ranks second highest among the 10 largest states in filings per judge. Remarkably, as of 2003, our general jurisdiction judges handle approximately 64 percent more filings per judge than the national average.”For the circuits, the court certified a need for:• Six additional judges for the 20th Circuit.• Four additional judges each for the Fifth, 11th, and 13th circuits.• Three additional judges each for the Fourth, Ninth, and 17th circuits.• Two additional judges each for the First, Seventh, 10th, and 12th circuits.• One additional judge each for the Second, Sixth, 14th, 18th, and 19th circuits. For the counties, the court asked for:• Five additional judges for Broward County.• Three additional judges each for Pinellas and Brevard counties.• Two additional judges each for Pasco and Orange counties.• One additional judge each for Duval, Marion, Osceola, Polk, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Charlotte, Collier, and Lee counties.Pariente said had all the circuit and county judgeships that the court certified last year been funded, this year the court would only be asking for an additional 11 judges for the county and circuit courts.“These judicial positions, if funded, will eliminate the remaining gap between the present number of judges and the additional need,” she said.For the DCAs, the court requested one additional judge each for the Second and Fourth DCAs.The Second DCA last received an additional judge in 1993 and the last new judgeship created for the Fourth DCA was in 1988.“Statewide, the district courts of appeal recorded an average of approximately 396 case filings per judge in fiscal year 2004-05,” Pariente said, adding that for the same time period, the Second and Fourth DCAs experienced approximately 434 and 421 case filings per judge, respectively.Of even greater significance, Pariente said, are the increases in the weighted caseload per judge data.“The Second and Fourth districts have the highest weighted caseloads per judge,” Pariente said. “In consideration of our previous years’ certifications, we once again certify the need for one additional district court judge in the Second and Fourth districts, for a total of two new district court judgeships.”Pariente also said supplemental resources assist judges in the fundamental mission of safeguarding Floridians’ constitutional rights of due process, equal protection, and access to courts. Pariente said the legislature, by funding the fiscal unification amendment to Article V, recognized the valuable contribution that case managers, mediators, and magistrates make to the efficient and effective operation of the trial courts.“However, further funding by the legislature of judicial law clerks for trial judges is needed in order to facilitate the adjudication of cases,” Pariente said, adding that judges rely on the support of professionals trained in the law to help them dispose of their cases and it is an inefficient use of judges’ time for them to perform tasks that can be capably performed by support staff, such as reviewing lengthy handwritten pleadings or performing detailed legal research.“We strongly encourage the legislature to consider our legislative budget request related to judicial law clerks, who perform a vital service for the trial courts in multiple areas and are particularly useful in capital cases, county to circuit appeals, and complex civil litigation in addition to postconviction proceedings,” Pariente said.“We call upon the legislature and the governor to complete the process begun during the last regular session and fund all the judicial positions that Florida’s citizens need and deserve,” the chief justice said.