Message from the Chief Justice
Message from Chief Justice Charles T. Canady
It takes a large group of people with a great range of talents to sustain a healthy, independent, and accountable court system that ensures the rule of law throughout the State. Judges in every county in
Florida contribute in significant ways to the judicial branch’s successes. So do the court administrators, the marshals, and all the other people who work in our courts. And for the important advances made over the period covered by this report, my predecessor as chief justice, Jorge Labarga, deserves great credit. I encourage you to read this report to learn about some of these accomplishments.
As part of its ongoing effort to improve the administration of justice, the judicial branch is always searching for innovative ways to carry out its mission more effectively and efficiently. One entity that plays an instrumental role in improving the administration of justice is the Judicial Management Council (JMC), which Justice Labarga chaired during his four years as chief justice. This council, which Justice Labarga refers to as “the workhorse of the judicial branch,” was conceived as a “forward looking advisory body to deftly assist the chief justice and the supreme court in proactively identifying trends, potential crisis situations, and means to address them.” This report enumerates many of the JMC’s achievements under Justice Labarga’s direction.
For instance, the JMC updated the branch-wide communication plan, Delivering Our Message: Court Communication Plan for the Judicial Branch of Florida. When the communication plan went into effect in January 2016, it became a source of great interest among the leaders of courts throughout the nation. Wherever our justices and staff travel, judges and court administrators from other states ask detailed questions about its development and its implementation.
In response to increases in security threats and violent incidents in court buildings, the council also made great progress in addressing security challenges in our trial courts. It recently recommended, and the supreme court approved, a series of best practices and standards to promote the safety and security of the public, judicial officers, and court personnel in Florida’s courts.
Another complex issue on which the JMC focused was guardianship. The council recently made recommendations to address guardianship and guardianship advocacy issues, including suggestions for amending Florida statutes and court rules and for developing guidance on properly handling guardianship cases. At the same time, the Office of the State Courts Administrator received a two-year grant to facilitate Florida’s WINGS initiative, a collaboration between the court and other governmental and private guardianship stakeholders, which has been working to map a comprehensive strategy for improved guardianship processes and increased effectiveness.
The JMC has also fixed its attention on access to justice issues. The council is spearheading the Do-It-Yourself Florida project, which guides self-represented litigants and others through a series of web-based interview questions that culminate in the creation of electronic pleadings and other documents suitable for filing. The JMC’s access to justice focus aligns with the work of another major enterprise introduced under Justice Labarga’s leadership, the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice. Among the commission’s accomplishments is the development of the Florida Courts Help App, a direct, mobile-friendly pathway for self-represented litigants and others to Florida’s most requested court information and forms.
This report also provides an update on our Early Childhood Courts, which encompass child welfare cases involving children under the age of three. Compared to jurisdictions with traditional dependency courts, this problem-solving court has demonstrated more timely permanency outcomes and a reduction of re-abuse. In the last five years, Florida’s Early Childhood Courts have grown from three sites to 22, and the implementation of new sites is ongoing.
The report details the advances of other Florida problem-solving courts as well. The supreme court recently approved Florida Adult Drug Court Best Practice Standards, which clearly define the practices that problem-solving courts should implement to adhere to evidence-based principles that have been scientifically shown to produce better outcomes. Using this as a model, the branch is now developing standards for other problem-solving courts in Florida (e.g., veterans court, juvenile drug court, family dependency drug court, driving under the influence court, and mental health court).
You can also read about the progress the branch is making with Virtual Remote Interpreting. Each year, thousands of court cases in Florida require spoken language interpreters. Utilizing both video and audio components, Virtual Remote Interpreting is a technology-based solution that enables remote interpreters to provide service as if they were in the courtroom, helping to address the increased need for quality interpreting services across the state.
In addition to being able to read about all these undertakings—and more—below, you can also discover how our courts are organized, from your local county court to the Supreme Court of Florida. You can learn about the great variety of court committees that gather input on judicial branch policies affecting the administration of justice. And you can find statistics about the numbers and the types of cases that come into our state courts for resolution. I hope you take time to delve into our annual report, for I believe it will increase your awareness of court programs, services, and performance and give you a better understanding of the purposes, roles, and responsibilities of the judicial branch.