Should the Florida Supreme Court Be Broken in Two?

two_headed_monster-7624615 I’d have to say my favorite period in American history is the 1930s.

You know, widespread and endemic depression, dust bowls, abject poverty, Nazi mistresses in black face, rising tensions in Europe leading to global catastrophe — those were all good times.

Oh yeah, you also had that whole Roosevelt court-packing thing.

So that’s why I’m just thrilled to see the boys in Tally growing nostalgic for those nonglory days gone by:

Rep. Cannon and his House minions want to place on the 2012 ballot a constitutional amendment that would break up the seven-member court and create two five-member high courts – one for civil cases and one for criminal cases. The court system needs lots of things, but a two-headed supreme court is not one of them. As with other big decisions, though, those who run Tallahassee are using high-minded arguments to conceal low-minded motivations.

According to the speaker’s office, the change would create courts with specialists in both main areas of the law, making the system “better able to resolve cases more expeditiously.”  Except that the real barriers to resolving civil cases “more expeditiously” are not at the highest level. They are at the trial level, where the increase in lawsuits and foreclosures (bad economy) and staff cuts (budget/bad economy) have jammed up the circuit and county courts. Indeed, in 2010 the Legislature appropriated $9.6 million just to deal with the foreclosure backlog.

If he really wanted to resolve civil cases “more expeditiously,” Rep. Cannon, a lawyer, would not be touting a new supreme court. He would be finding money for the 80 judges statewide – five in the Palm Beach County circuit and three in the circuit that serves Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Indian River counties – that Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady says the system needs.

So the idea seems to be to starve the courts at the trial and appellate levels, but add more seats at the Supreme Court level (which in a stroke of luck would be appointed by the Governor)? If the reasoning were true, why not break up the DCAs into specialized civil/crim courts as well?  Maybe we should do that with the United States Supreme Court as well, all for “efficiency’s sake.” I may be mistaken, but this session seems to be producing some of the absolutely worst legislative proposals I can remember, and it’s just starting.

Happy Monday!