April 15, 2005 Senior Editor Regular News Courts fighting for adequate funding Courts fighting for adequate funding Jan Pudlow Senior Editor Stan Morris is chief judge of the Eighth Judicial Circuit in Gainesville. But when he comes to Tallahassee, he trades his black robe for a suit and looks a lot like a lobbyist at the Capitol, as he assumes his role as chair of the Trial Court Budget Commission.On March 29, Judge Morris paused to give the News a status report on how things are shaping up so far with legislative funding of the court budget.“We haven’t been as successful as we’d like to be,” Morris said. “We are lined up on both sides to make another pitch for priorities.”One top priority is tackling a $2.5-million deficiency in the trial court budget. As Morris explained, the trial court budget is “very people-heavy in the sense most of our budget goes to salaries, and there is very little turnover.” Other branches of government, he said, are able to more readily adapt to lapses figured into the budget for hiring personnel.The court budget suffered from what he called “a series of inappropriate lapsed figures applied to our budget.”Last year, under the leadership of former TCBC Chair Judge Susan Schaeffer, of the Sixth Judicial Circuit, they were able to reduce that $2.5- million deficit to $1.7 million because of restrictions on hiring practices, he said.That means judges must hire judicial assistants and law clerks and other personnel at the base salaries—and that doesn’t always mean hiring the best candidate for the job.“Judges were used to having a 10-percent flex in that, so they could offer more than the base. We had to curtail that ability to hire good people,” Morris said.Another way they were able to save money last year was to instruct chief judges to hold off hiring anyone for 90 days.“It was a one-year opportunity in transition from county to state funding to attack the problem, and we did. That will not work for this year,” Morris said. “I think the legislature needs to be more understanding about the difficulties we have in this branch.. . . It’s very difficult to make up a shortfall without legislative assistance.”The turning point will come sometime after April 11 when they will go into conference with legislators on the court budget.“The worst case scenario is that people could be terminated if we can’t make our budget,” Morris said.Another issue deals with $5.3 million for court reporters and translators that is currently in the House budget, but not in the Senate budget, Morris said. It’s called a “shared cost issue,” Morris said, explaining that dollars for full-time equivalent positions are placed in state attorneys’ and public defenders’ accounts at the Justice Administrative Commission for court reporters and translators who are court employees, but those dollars have not been received by the courts.In the meantime, Morris and a covey of judges who are members of the TCBC are fixtures at legislative committee meetings related to funding the courts, ready for opportunities to try to avert any worst case scenarios.
Instead, he is calling for concentration on attempting to build on what they achieved the last time they played at their own ground, when they defeated champions Chelsea 3-1 on September 12. “Obviously, you can look at the stats over the years,” Martinez said. “But I don’t think we should really look into anything further than just (trying to create) a really good home game. “Our last home game was probably one where we set the standards in many aspects – the way we started, the way we performed throughout, the atmosphere, the way the fans created a perfect environment for us to play football. “We haven’t been that successful in the last 17 fixtures in the derby, but I don’t think that is something we are going to take into Sunday’s game. “It is about how good we can be and how much we can create a special atmosphere like we did in the previous home game.” While the visitors, with Steven Gerrard now departed, look set to have no Liverpudlian players on show on Sunday, Everton are likely to have local representation on the field in the in-form Ross Barkley, plus, possibly, defender Tyias Browning. Martinez has no doubt the fixture is extra special for the likes of midfielder Barkley, but has also emphasised it means a lot to all Everton players – and that it is important cool heads are kept within the squad. The Toffees have won only one of their previous 17 Premier League meetings with Liverpool, with that triumph coming in 2010. Martinez has acknowledged the importance of his Everton side getting a win against the Reds at Goodison Park on Sunday, but feels thoughts of the record between the clubs over the past few years should not be weighing on his players’ minds. Asked about the significance of having a local lad in his group, Spaniard Martinez said: “I think it is important to have good players enjoying their moment, and the nationality or where they were born doesn’t matter – it is about how much you love your football club. “But I do think growing up and having that dream of playing in, performing in and scoring in a derby in front of your fans has an extra significance. “Obviously we have our own examples in the dressing room and there is nothing better than achieving a moment in football that has been building in your head since you were a child.” Then asked if he had had to rein in Barkley at all during the build-up, Martinez said: “No – I think the kit men are more the ones you have to keep an eye on because they get really excited, with hundreds of stories to tell you about derby days! “I think the players are very much focused. You have to make sure you keep calm and are ready to help the team.” Everton defenders John Stones (knee) and Seamus Coleman (hamstring) face late fitness tests ahead of Sunday’s game. Midfielder Muhamed Besic (hamstring) is not expected to be available, while winger Kevin Mirallas is still suspended. Roberto Martinez wants Everton to go into Sunday’s Merseyside derby focused on trying to emulate their impressive last home outing rather than thinking about their recent lack of victories over Liverpool. Press Association