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Draft report recommends against consolidating Florida's judicial circuits

A Florida Supreme Court-appointed committee on Friday made tweaks to a report recommending against shrinking the number of judicial circuits in the state.

The panel earlier this month unanimously recommended against consolidating Florida’s 20 judicial circuits.

House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, asked the court in June to probe the issue, arguing that wide population and geographic disparities exist among some circuits.

Chief Justice Carlos Muniz issued an order June 30 appointing the committee. But state attorneys, public defenders, judges, sheriffs, other elected officials, attorneys and members of the public from one end of the state to the other roundly objected to a potential decrease in the number of circuits.

The committee’s draft report, approved Friday, pointed to input from surveys, written comments and remarks made at a series of public meetings.

“The committee did not identify a justification to support consolidation and instead observed significant opposition to consolidation. The majority of commentary suggested that consolidation would harm public trust and confidence by removing the justice system’s connection to the local community and by reducing the ability of voters in a less populous judicial circuit to affect election of judges, state attorneys, and public defenders if consolidated with a more populous circuit,” the draft report said.

The committee will meet again Nov. 29 to finalize its report, which is due to the court Dec. 1.