Florida Supreme Court calls for adding two county court judges in Hillsborough

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©2023 The News Service of Florida

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday recommended adding a circuit judge in Southwest Florida and county judges in Orange and Hillsborough counties, while decreasing the numbers of county judges in Alachua and Brevard counties.

The Supreme Court issued annual recommendations that the Legislature will consider in deciding whether to change the numbers of judges. Justices called for adding a circuit judge in the 20th Judicial Circuit, which is made up of Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties.

They also recommended adding three county judgeships in Orange County and two in Hillsborough County, while decreasing one county judgeship in Alachua County and one in Brevard County.

Justices also recommended reducing through attrition the number of judges on the Tallahassee-based 1st District Court of Appeal and the Tampa-based 2nd District Court of Appeal.

Sen. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, and Rep. David Silvers, D-Lake Clarke Shores, have filed bills (SB 490 and HB 457) for the 2024 legislative session that would shrink the two appeals courts.

Lawmakers in 2022 approved the creation of a sixth district court of appeal and revamped boundaries of other districts, including the 1st District and the 2nd District.

The bills cite “excess judicial capacity” in those two districts and would reduce the numbers of judges “based on attrition and without requiring a judge to vacate his or her position involuntarily.”

The number of judges in the 1st District would ultimately be reduced from 13 to 12, while the number in the 2nd District would be reduced from 15 to 12, under the bills.

The Supreme Court on Thursday did not address a controversial idea of consolidating judicial circuits.

A committee appointed by Chief Justice Carlos Muniz has recommended against such a consolidation.

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