Budget Shortfalls Threaten Court Operations

A sudden drop in foreclosure filings has resulted in a dramatic budget shortfall for Florida’s Courts, leading to possible Court shutdowns in the coming months.  Anyone dealing with the Florida Courts on a regular basis is already aware of the delays and hassles caused by previous budget cuts.  It looks like things may get worse.  From the St. Pete Times:


Gov. Rick Scott approves $14 million transfer to help courts, but not loan request

Gov. Rick Scott has refused to approve a loan Florida courts need to keep operating through the end of June.

In a letter delivered to Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles T. Canady on Tuesday, Scott said he would approve the transfer of $14 million in trust fund money from court-related funds in hopes of keeping the courts going through April, but wants more time to study a request for a $28 million loan from other state funds.
In a letter written by Scott’s budget director, Jerry L. McDaniel, the governor’s office said the delay in approving the court’s request will provide the governor’s office an opportunity to better understand the factors that led to this deficit, the steps taken by the courts to reduce costs and recommendations for avoiding a similar shortfall next year.
Canady says a dramatic drop in the number of mortgage foreclosure suits filed in Florida has created a financial emergency that could jeopardize the entire court system.

The court needs $72.3 million in emergency funds to keep operating through the end of the current budget year ending June 30. Canady said the courts already face an $8 million deficit by the end of March.
The annual $462 million budget for the court system anticipates spending about $38.5 million a month, far less than the $14 million the governor is allowing for the remainder of March and all of April. Canady says the crisis is likely to lead to unpaid furloughs for court employees and serious delays in litigation.

Asked about the court’s request at a press availability Tuesday, Scott said he had just learned of the request. “We’re getting up to speed on it, and then I’ll make a decision,’’ Scott said.