Controversial Florida judicial circuit merger faces committee resistance

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State Appellate Districts, Circuits, and Counties // Credit: flcourts.gov

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Amid overwhelming opposition to consolidation, a committee appointed by the Florida Supreme Court on Friday unanimously recommended against shrinking the number of judicial circuits in the state.

Speaker of the House Paul Renner introduced the proposal in June. He said the consolidation would lead to “greater efficiency” in the judicial process.

But many members of this committee disagree, including Lee County Circuit Judge Margaret Steinbeck.

“I’m hard-pressed to see how consolidation would meaningfully impact clearance rates wherever they are a problem.”

A clearance rate is an indicator of whether a court is keeping up with its incoming caseload.

In Hillsborough County, there have been below-average historical clearance rates for some cases. However, a report discussed in this meeting revealed that most recent numbers are trending upwards or are consistent with the rest of the state.

Broward County Judge Robert Lee spoke about the findings.

“I know that judges in Hillsborough County recognize they have a tremendous caseload, but just to wrap it back up, they just certainly don’t feel that consolidation will assist with that one way or another.”

Critics of the consolidation, including State Representative Michele Rayner, say it’s a move by the governor to ensure democratic prosecutors aren’t elected.

The next meeting is on November 17th via Zoom. These meetings were set to be private but were opened to the public after outcry. The committee will make a recommendation on the consolidation in December.

information from News Service of Florida was used in this report

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