The global pandemic forced many courts to cancel or postpone court events last year, delaying the cases that could not be heard virtually. However, last week State Senator Keith Perry (R – Gainesville) released the Clerks of Court – Pandemic Recovery Plan, a Local Funding Initiative Request (LFIR 1993) to help people receive the services they need as the judicial system fully reopens. LFIR 1993 requests $6.8 million to provide resources to support the services clerks provide as Floridians attempt to navigate the logjam of cases in the court system.
“’Justice delayed is justice denied’ is not just a saying. Denied justice is a real strain on Florida’s families and our economy, and we must work with the Legislature to ensure no one can say clerks are delaying their day in court,” said JD Peacock, Okaloosa County Clerk & Comptroller and Chair of the Clerks of Court Operations Corporation (CCOC). “We thank Senator Perry for recognizing this issue for not only his constituents but for all Floridians.”
Clerks are the front door to the justice system. “This budget issue is about protecting people’s right to have their disputes heard and ensuring Floridians receive the highest level of service they’ve come to expect from their local clerk,” said Alachua County Clerk of Court & Comptroller, Jess Irby. Most courthouses are still limited in the number of people and proceedings that can take place in person. This constraint means people are waiting longer than usual for their day in court.
When courtrooms fully reopen, the dockets will be busy. The Office of State Court Administrator (OSCA) estimates there will be close to 1.2 million cases pending on June 30, 2021. “The pandemic put a strain on the clerks’ resources last year when we had to cut over $50 million from the statewide budget,” said Greg Harrell, Marion County Clerk of Court & Comptroller. “As we try to get back up to speed, we’re also playing catch-up, and we’re trying to manage even more cases than we had previously.” Lengthy and prolonged delays in the court system can drag on entrepreneurial activity, harming Florida’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the fiscal year that ended Sept 30, 2020, clerks collected $377.4 million in revenue, down from $432.2 million the previous year. Putnam County Clerk of Court & Comptroller, Matt Reynolds, stressed, “Senator Perry’s support of our shared constituents is even more important in the context of the massive statewide economic losses from last year. Long lines and wait times discourage our citizens, and his support will go a long way to restoring their faith in the judicial system.”
“This year is the first time clerks have attempted to use the LFIR process to request funding for our essential services to the court system. We greatly appreciate Senator Perry’s willingness to provide us a pathway for legislative review in the state budgeting process so Clerks of Court can do our part to help Floridians with personal and economic recovery,” said CCOC Legislative Chair Carolyn Timmann, Martin County Clerk of Court & Comptroller.
About the Clerks of Court Operations Corporation (CCOC)
The statutorily created CCOC supports the Clerks of Court in all 67 counties. For more information about the Pandemic Recovery Plan (LFIR 1993) and all the clerks’ Legislative Budget Requests (LBR), please visit www.flccoc.org/LBR.