Bill would create new DCA

first_imgThe bill also calls for the creation of 29 new circuit judges, 18 new county judges, and four new DCA judges.The bill authorizes 14 new circuit judges, effective January 4, 2005, including one in the 14th Circuit; two each in the 17th and 20th circuits; and three each in the 11th, 13th, and 19th circuits. Fifteen new circuit judges would be authorized effective April 15, 2005, including one each in the First, Third, Fourth, Seventh, Eighth, 10th, and 15th circuits; two in the Sixth Circuit; and three each in the Fifth and Ninth circuits.The bill provides for nine new county court judges, effective January 4, 2005, including one each in Bay, Brevard, Broward, Collier, Martin, Dade, and St. Lucie counties, and two in Hillsborough County. Nine new county court judges would come on line April 1, including one each in Columbia, Duval, Marion, Orange, Pasco, Pinellas, and Volusia counties, and two in Palm Beach County.The fiscal impact of creating the additional judgeships in FY 2004-05 is $4.7 million, according to the bill. Bill would create new DCA Mark D. Killian Managing Editor The House passed a bill that would create a Sixth District Court of Appeal based in Polk County and redefine a number of the existing appellate districts.The House voted 72-45 April 1 to create the first new DCA in the state since 1979, as part of HB 1849 introduced by Appropriations Committee Chair Bruce Kyle, R-Ft. Myers. The proposed legislation also calls for the creation of 51 new judgeships, including 29 at the circuit level, 18 on the county benches, and four new DCA judges.Kyle said he made his decision to propose the new DCA based on a 1999 report of the Judicial Management Council’s Committee to Study the Need for Additional District Courts of Appeal, which at the time said within the next five years Florida would need two more DCAs. That committee based its findings on a workload standard of 385 filings per judge per year, which should yield 225 case dispositions. The panel also recommended each DCA should be staffed with 10 judges and allowed for growth to 12.The Supreme Court’s annual certification opinion this year called for the creation of 88 new judgeships, including four new appellate judges — two for the Second DCA and one each in the Fourth and Fifth DCAs — but did not request the creation of a new appellate district.Supreme Court Chief Justice Harry Lee Anstead said he recently appointed a com-mittee to look into the need for any additional appellate districts and is awaiting that report before commenting on the bill. First DCA Chief Judge James Wolf chairs that study group, which is composed, essentially, of the members of the DCA Budget Commission, and is expected to complete that report soon, Chief Justice Anstead said.Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Dania, said while he supports the creation of the new judgeships, he could not support the bill as written and questioned its constitutionality, because he said the Supreme Court did not specifically certify to the legislature the need for a new DCA.But Kyle characterized the JMC committee’s report as “tantamount to a certification” from the court.“This issue has been studied and studied and studied for the last 25 years, since the creation of the last DCA, and what has been current throughout all those studies is that collegiality is important and even in the most recent study it said DCAs should not breach 12 [judges] per DCA,” Kyle said.“Well, [the court] has certified two new judges for the Second DCA, which brings that DCA up to 16 judges. So breaching their own report, I argue they have certified the need for at least one new DCA at this point — if not two.”Ryan, however, argued the Florida Constitution contains a specific procedure for increasing the number of judicial districts, and since the Supreme Court has not undertaken those steps, the legislature would be overstepping its bounds by creating the new district itself. Ryan also said the JMC tabled the report by its Committee to Study the Need for Additional District Courts of Appeal, “so the report of the committee never even came to the Supreme Court.”Rep. Jack Seiler, D-Pompano Beach, commended Kyle and Rep. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, for funding 51 of 88 judges the court asked for, “but we are also in this same bill creating a Sixth District Court of Appeal in direct violation of the Florida Constitution.”Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, also decried the fact the bill was taken up only by the House Appropriations Committee before it made its way to the floor and was not referred to the Judiciary or Judicial Appropriations committees.“All we have done is thrust it though Appropriations and onto the floor and said, ‘Just do it, let’s do it,’ [even though it’s] likely in violation of the constitution, and without any of the serious thought or reflection that we should take with all of our tasks,” Gelber said.Kyle also offered an amendment — which he ultimately withdrew — which would have reverted the state’s Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) back to the way it was two years ago for judges and justices, meaning they would lose their accrued retirement benefits if they did not retire five years after enrolling in the program.Gelber said in effect that amendment would require 60 or 70 judges in the state — including the chief justice — to resign their positions or lose the lump sum they had earned through the DROP program. Gelber said the amendment was offered “to subtly intimidate and abuse our judiciary.”Gelber and Seiler then proposed a tongue-in-cheek amendment to Kyle’s amendment, which read: “That statute shall not apply to justices and judges unless their published opinions and judicial philosophy has been expressly approved by the House.”Sixth DCA Bill would create new DCA The bill envisions the new Sixth DCA comprised of the 10th, 12th, and 20th circuits. The Second DCA would be headquartered in Hillsborough County and would hear cases from the Fifth, Sixth, and 13th circuits. The Fourth DCA would be comprised of the 15th and 17th circuits, and the Fifth DCA would hear cases from the Seventh, Ninth, 18th, and 19th circuits. The First and Third DCAs would remain the same.The number of judges certified for the First and Third DCAs remains the same at 15 and 11, respectively. The bill calls for the number of judges in the Second DCA to go from 14 to 11; in the Fourth DCA from 12 to 11; and in the Fifth DCA from 10 to 11. The bill certifies seven judges for the new Sixth DCA.The bill makes clear that its terms will not affect any currently sitting Supreme Court justice, and only when there is a vacancy on the court must it be filled to ensure that at least one justice is appointed to the court from each appellate district, as required by the constitution.A clause is included in the bill that specifies that the entire act becomes invalid if any of the provisions relating to the creation of the Sixth DCA are held to be invalid.The operating costs associated with a new DCA are estimated to be $2.5 million per year, according to Kyle.New Judges April 15, 2004 Managing Editor Regular Newslast_img

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