Judicial Circuit Assessment Committee plans three more meetings
A Supreme Court panel that is considering the consolidation of Florida judicial circuits will conduct three more public meetings ahead of a December 1 deadline to submit its final report.
- Friday, November 3, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (ET) – to analyze the various information before the Committee against the criteria prescribed in court rules;
- Friday, November 17, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (ET) – to continue the analysis if it is not concluded at the prior meeting and to review a draft report; and
- Wednesday, November 29, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. (ET) – to present and approve its final report.
The judicial branch and its appointed committees are not subject to Florida’s open government laws, the JCAC announcement notes. However, “the committee has unanimously decided to conduct all of its remaining meetings publicly by Zoom, due to overwhelming interest throughout the State of Florida,” according to the statement.
The committee took testimony from hundreds of judges, prosecutors, public defenders, legislators, and community activists at public hearings in Orlando earlier this summer and in Tampa last week.
Committee surveys garnered more than 7,000 responses, including 5,000 from court system stakeholders. The committee has posted the responses, hundreds of letters, and meeting materials on its website.
Chief Justice Carlos Muñiz created the committee via a June 30 administrative order that, among other things, directs it to determine whether consolidation of judicial circuits – within existing district court of appeal boundaries – is warranted.
Muñiz issued the order after House Speaker Paul Renner, a Palm Coast attorney, wrote to the Supreme Court and suggested that consolidation could improve court efficiency and save taxpayer dollars. The administrative order stresses that the Supreme Court was not “expressing any view on the merits at this time.”
The judicial circuit realignment process is governed by Rule of General Practice and Judicial Administration 2.241. A similar committee in 2021 recommended the creation of the Sixth District Court of Appeal.
Among other things, the rule requires the committee to consider “less disruptive” alternatives and to base its recommendations on six factors – effectiveness, efficiency, access to courts, professionalism, public trust and confidence, and “such other factors as are regularly considered when determining the need for additional judges under Florida Rule of General Practice and Judicial Administration 2.240, which are based primarily upon circuit court and county court caseload statistics.”