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Justice Administrative Commission, State Attorneys, and Public Defenders, Report No. 01-64, December 2001
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We conducted our review of the state attorneys, public defenders, and Justice Administrative Commission one year ahead of schedule to provide the Legislature information for its deliberations concerning Revision 7 to Article V of the Florida Constitution. Because the issues related to these entities are so intertwined, our review conclusions are presented in one report. In November 2001, we also published an overview of Revision 7 to Article V issues, Many Article V Trial Courts Funding Issues Need to Be Resolved, Report No. 01-54.

The Justice Administrative Commission is well regarded by the offices it serves for its accuracy, timeliness, and expertise. Based on the commission’s recent efforts to streamline accounting work by acquiring an automated system to reduce data entry, we identified 1.4 accounting positions that may no longer be necessary. We recommend that the 1.4 positions be eliminated beginning in the 2002‑03 fiscal year for an annual cost savings of $40,500.

State attorneys and public defenders could improve operations in four areas.

  • Integration of technology.  The Florida Public Defender Association, the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, and the Joint Article V Committee should work together to develop a plan and schedule to integrate technology within and among circuits.  Currently, the level of technology varies from circuit to circuit.  Integrating technology can reduce costs and improve efficiency.
  • Online research.  State attorneys and public defenders should work together to take advantage of group purchasing discounts for subscriptions to online legal research services.  By pooling their purchasing power and negotiating as a group, it is likely that they could save over $300,000 annually.
  • Indigency examiners.  The Legislature has eliminated funding for indigency examiner positions.  If the Legislature reauthorizes these positions in the future, it should fund a program administrator within the Office of the State Courts Administrator to improve and standardize indigency examiner operations.
  • Reclassification of some offenses.  State attorneys and public defenders should work with the Legislature to reclassify some misdemeanors and felonies to reduce court workloads and costs.  If select non-violent misdemeanors were reclassified as civil infractions with a fine penalty, both the state and counties could receive increased revenue.

Local governments currently pay for and monitor contracted conflict attorneys when public defenders cannot take a case due to ethical conflict. When the state assumes financial responsibility for these lawyers, it will need to develop a new system of oversight.

State attorneys and public defenders participate in 197 special programs that are intended to improve the efficiency or effectiveness of the court system. It is unclear whether the state should fund some of these programs after the implementation of Revision 7 to Article V.

Which Government Program Summaries contain related information?

Public Defenders
State Attorneys
Justice Administrative Commission

What other OPPAGA-related materials are available?

  • Report No. 04-08 Progress Report: Judicial System Achieves Savings by Implementing Recommendations, published in January 2004.

Copies of this report in print or alternate accessible format may be obtained by telephone (850/488-0021), by FAX (850/487-9213), in person, or by mail (OPPAGA Report Production, Claude Pepper Building, Room 312, 111 W. Madison St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-1475).
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