For fourth time in five years, Florida bills would provide additional funding for courts, but only if judicial immunity is retroactively ended and judicial disciplinary commission changed

I’ve mentioned the past several years Florida’s efforts to tie funding for the courts to changes in either merit selection or court structure. For example at one point an effort to split the state’s supreme court into civil and criminal courts, an move all Democratically appointed justices of the current court to the new criminal court, was tied with a constitutionally guaranteed 2.25% appropriation of general revenue funds.

Now for the the 4th time in 5 years, a push is on to pay for the state’s courts only if judicial immunity is ended and the state’s judicial disciplinary commission processes and membership is changed.

All the bills in question (see below) provide for the creation of a Fiscal Stability Trust Fund to be created and funded with an automatic appropriation of 1% of the state’s budget to be controlled by the state’s Supreme Court in order to pay for running the judiciary.

In the 2009 version of the bill, the trust fund and changes to the state’s courts were in the same bill; since 2010 the bills have been separated with a link: passage of the additional funding for the courts would come only when the other bill was enacted.

In exchange for funding, the courts would be required to agree to a retroactive elimination of judicial immunity in a variety of specified contexts dealing with court proceedings. Additionally, the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) and specific JQC investigation panels must include at least 5 “common citizen electors” as a staff committee, none of whom may be “officers of the court” and who must prepare a separate report on the investigation that is to be made publicly available. Both the state courts system in general, and the JQC in particular, would be subject to an immediate audit by the state’s Auditor General and the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability conduct full audit review of commission, a review to be repeated every two years.

This years bills have been referred to their respective Judiciary Committees.