The Florida Supreme Court released its strategic plan establishing the long-term focus of the Judicial Branch States Court System and outlining strategies to address issues evolving from past events and trends. The Long Range Program Plan provides context for how the branch will organize, provide services, and fund activities for FY13-14 through FY17-18.

The State Courts System’s comprehensive goals are organized around five long-range issues that identify significant challenges that must be addressed in order to move toward fulfilling the vision and mission of the judicial branch. Those five issues are: 1 – Strengthening Governance and Independence; 2 –Improving the Administration of Justice; 3 – Supporting Competence and Quality; 4 – Enhancing Court Access and Services; and 5 – Enhancing Public Trust and Confidence.

In addition to its goals, some external trends were identified that are expected to contribute to the scope and complexity of the challenges facing the courts.  Among those trends are, the ongoing recession which has increased the number of persons eligible for court appointed services, as well as, the number of persons choosing to represent themselves.  The requirement that courts provide meaningful access to all civil, criminal and administrative hearings at no charge to LEP individuals, which has been interpreted under Title VI and the Safe Streets Act to include the provision of language services (interpreters). The fact that in recent years the federal government has stepped up enforcement of the ADA and that the number of individuals in Florida with disabilities is increasingly rapidly. Lastly, the foreclosure activity in Florida, which appears to have no end in sight. In FY11-12 there were 186,630 foreclosure filings in Florida and for the first six months of 2012, Florida foreclosure activity increased 23 percent from the prior year For that same period, Florida had the 2nd highest number of foreclosure filings and the 5th highest foreclosure rate in the country.

To put in context the ever increasing workloads our courts face on a daily basis, in FY11-12 our court system disposed of (or resolved) a total of 3,715,844 cases (the Florida Supreme disposed 2,333 cases, the District Courts of Appeals disposed of 26,447 cases and the Trials Courts (Circuit and County courts) disposed of 3,687,064 cases).  Unfortunately, these numbers are not expected to go down any time soon.  As a result, yesterday the Office of the States Court Administrator unveiled its budget request for FY13-14 which asks for a $35.7 million budget increase, including a 3.5% pay raise for judicial employees.  If approved the budget would amount to an 8% increase over the current budget of $443.9 million. For those interested in reading the entire Long Range Program Plan for the State Courts System you may access it at: http://floridafiscalportal.state.fl.us/