Florida Judiciary Crisis

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Okay, enough of AI. Next week I'm going to be putting together links and information about the financial woes of the Florida Judiciary...

During the past week came the announcement that throughout the entire state court employees will have to go on unpaid furloughs for extended periods of time.

Just think. An employee is expected to take anywhere from 22 days on up without any type of pay, including vacation pay. Oh yeah, the mortgage, water, and electrical companies are going to be soooo understanding that these folks don't have $ to pay their bills. How many are going to be forced to find another job if they can? With a hiring freeze, those positions won't be filled any time soon.

But what is really, really fascinating me is the lack of disclosure and/or silence as to all the classes of employees who will be forced to take unpaid leave of absence.

So far the 'classes' I've seen/heard mentioned/discussed in my neck of the woods --Palm Beach County-- have been primarily court reporters, interpreters, case managers, and judicial assistants. Absent on the radar are personnel like the general magistrates and their staff.

Huh. Since judges are constitutional officers, they're going to continue to receive their salaries. What they'll have to tough out is taking their own phone calls, typing, and setting their calendars. [Better push up the sleeves of your black robes!] We'll soon learn if they can figure out the computer programs and what buttons to push on a phone.

But, depending on the division, those hearing loads have been alleviated for years by the general magistrates. Those magistrates have booked calendars for months on end. Who's going to handle those hearings while the magistrates are out? The judges? I doubt it even if they wanted to.

The Florida court system is about to grind to a gigantic slowdown. If people thought justice was slow before, just wait. I don't think the public realizes how intrinsic the court personnel are to the running of the system. I suspect things are going to fall through the cracks, which is probably why all the levels of personnel being put on leave have not been completely listed in the initial announcements. Or...

Maybe the higher-up's in the judiciary administration don't know the extent of their own personnel. That's a rather frightening thought. But if true, they're about to learn in the same fashion as the public: the hard way.