Tallahassee, Florida (JusticeNewsFlash.com) — Given the economic picture, it’s likely the State of Florida is not yet finished with its budget cuts, even after serious reductions over the last two years. These reductions have already harmed the efficiency of Florida’s courts. The businesses and consumers of our state should not suffer additional budget cuts to the courts. Ensuring that our courts are properly funded enables them to be properly staffed and able to deal with cases in a timely and efficient manner. Wronged consumers and businesses deserve to receive justice.
The Rule of Law
Our courts make the rule of law a living reality by protecting individual rights and liberties, enforcing public order, and providing for peaceful resolution of disputes.
More than 4 million new cases impacting every aspect of our society and culture are filed each year. Yet our ability to rely on our courts is threatened when court funding is cut.
Almost all the funding for the judiciary comes from the state’s general revenue fund. The courts get very little dedicated funding from trust funds. The Florida Constitution does call for the salaries, costs, and expenses of the courts to be funded from a portion of the revenues derived from fines and fees collected. But, in fact, most of those funds go to general revenue rather than to support the courts.
The courts lost ten percent of their general revenue funding in the last two fiscal years. This forced the courts to lay off 150 people and to eliminate 118 unfilled positions. The new fiscal year had the courts being asked to reduce their budget by another four percent, which would double the number of staff lost.
Since the courts carry out their functions entirely through their staff, cuts of this magnitude are devastating and seriously hurt the ability of the courts to deliver justice.
If this continues, cases will become prioritized, with criminal cases and cases involving children getting first priority – and it would be difficult to handle even these cases in a timely manner.
Civil proceedings will be delayed even more, hurting businesses of all kinds, large and small. Banks, real estate, construction and related industries will be hampered by delays. Contract disputes will take longer to resolve. Retailers and small businesses seeking to recover payments will wait.
Current Court Funding
The budget for Florida’s courts is $403 million, less than seven-tenths of one percent of the entire state budget.
Florida’s state courts should have a stable, dedicated funding source to ensure the rule of law, public safety, and the rights of citizens.
By Jacqui Sisto Communications & Marketing Director for the Florida Justice Association in Tallahassee, Florida. Ms. Sisto can be reach at [email protected]
Florida Justice Association (FJA) is dedicated to strengthening and upholding Florida’s civil justice system and protecting the rights of Florida’s citizens