Due Process Workgroup
The Due Process Workgroup, a joint Workgroup of the Trial Court Budget Commission (TCBC) and the Commission on Trial Court Performance and Accountability (TCP&A), was created in 2015. The charge of the Workgroup is to identify factors affecting the cost of providing expert witness, court interpreting, and court reporting services to develop fiscal and operational recommendations for the provision of due process services.
To ensure effective and efficient provision of court appointed expert witness services, the Florida Supreme Court directed the TCBC and TCP&A to establish operational and budgeting policies in the use of court appointed expert witnesses in Florida's trial courts. In June 2014, the TCP&A developed Recommendations for the Provision of Court Appointed Expert Witness Services in Florida's Trial Courts to address these directives. Based on concerning trends related to the trial court's expert witness contractual budgets, the TCBC and TCP&A developed further recommendations described in Expert Witnesses in Florida's Trial Courts: Recommendations from the Joint Workgroup of the Trial Court Budget Commission and the Commission on Trial Court Performance and Accountability. Both reports propose administrative, fiscal, operational, policy, and statutory solutions, in order to improve the processes for appointing experts and containing costs. These recommendations were approved by the Supreme Court on February 6, 2017 in AOSC17-12 Court Appointed Expert Witness Services In Florida's Trial Courts.
As a result of the approved recommendations, expert witness contractual expenditures decreased, thus providing the opportunity for the Workgroup to recommend and the TCBC to approve, the redistribution of resources among the three due process elements in FY 2018-19.
In order to further standardize payments across the state and help to reduce costs for expert witness services, the Workgroup recommended to specify that adult and juvenile intellectual disabilities or autism competency exams are included in the respective standard competency rate category. In addition, other clarifications for testimony rates, extraordinary circumstance and travel expenses were made. On June 22, 2018, the Supreme Court approved the recommendations in AOSC18-17 Adoption Of Amended Expert Witness Rate Structure Chart For Court Appointed Expert Witness Services In Florida's Trial Courts.
Additional Expert Witness Resources:
In the FY 2017-18 year-end spending plan, the TCBC approved utilizing funds to enhance court interpreting services by purchasing $1.8 million for Virtual Remote Interpreting (VRI) equipment and to provide installation and maintenance of this equipment, if needed, in the 2018-19 fiscal year. The Workgroup and TCBC further recommended to implement a mechanism for tracking the increased service delivery of court interpreting services.
The redistribution of resources among elements enables circuits to meet additional interpreting needs by: increasing contractual services and maintaining VRI capabilities, or a combination of the resources. The Workgroup continues to evaluate the effective functioning and difficulties with recruiting and retaining certified court interpreters. At this time, staff are developing recommendations to either enhance current mechanisms or implement processes for tracking increased service delivery.