first_img Court clerks object to oversight by chief judges Senior Editor The Bar Board of Governors has asked the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee to modify a proposed rule about circuit chief judge oversight of court clerks before it is submitted to the Supreme Court.At stake are suggested revisions to Rule of Judicial Administration 2.050 intended to clarify the relationship between courts and clerks in the wake of Revision 7 to Art. V. of the state constitution. That constitutional amendment went into effect July 1 and transferred most of the funding of trial courts from the counties to the state.Critics of the proposed rule amendments, including some state lawmakers, said the committee was overstepping its bounds and giving chief judges too much say in court clerk operations. They also said a state law already sets out that relationship.After debate, the board at its August 13 meeting at Ponte Vedra Beach, voted to recommend a change to the proposed amendment and sent that to the committee for consideration. The board also heard from Stanford Solomon, past chair of the committee, Trial Court Budget Commission Vice Chair Judge Stan Morris, and Fred Baggett, general counsel for the Florida Association of Court Clerks.Under court rules of judicial administration, the board cannot force the committee to amend its recommendation. The committee can send its proposal unchanged to the court or do something totally new, but it will be accompanied by the board’s suggestions.“I am deeply saddened to see two esteemed bodies in a turf war,” said board member Henry Latimer, referring to the disagreement between judges and clerks. “Effectively at the end of the day, the chief judge is saying, ‘You [the clerk] work at my direction.’ I don’t like for us to get involved in that.”Board member Dude Phelan said judges have been quick to defend separation of powers to protect the courts, and they have to understand how it works the other way.“This rule is clearly unconstitutional. Even if it were not clearly unconstitutional, it is a bad idea,” he said. Referring to language that the clerks work in their court-related functions “at the direction” of chief judges, he added, “That’s not right. The chief judge should no more be supervising constitutional officers than should constitutional officers supervise the chief judges.“I think that we, together with the court, owe it to intellectual honesty to stand up for the principle of separation of powers when it pinches our toes, rather than just when it feels good.”The Rules of Judicial Administration Committee proposed including this sentence in rule 2.050(3): “The clerk of court shall discharge its constitutional and statutory duties at the direction of and in consultation with the chief judge to effectively and efficiently accomplish the administrative plan.”Subsection (9) would have this sentence added: “The clerks of court shall be subject to the direction of the chief judge for the efficient and proper administration of all courts within the circuit. The clerk of court shall perform all responsibilities required by law and provide such other services for the efficient and proper administration of the court as may be required by administrative order or local rule.”The board’s proposed modifications would alter both sections to say the chief judge would have “administrative supervision” rather than “direction” over the clerks. The last sentence of subsection (9) would be shortened to “The clerk of court shall perform all responsibilities required by law.”Solomon told the board the issue arose when a proposed local rule in the Sixth Circuit was forwarded to the committee. He said a subcommittee was appointed to study the issue, and it concluded that past case law clearly gives judges control over clerk functions that affect court operations.“It goes to the very core of the constitutional issue that must be addressed,” Solomon said. “No one other than our judicial officers, not even another constitutional officer like the clerk, must be permitted to have operational control of the courts.”Morris recounted the battles and compromises that went into the new statutes governing Revision 7. He noted that at first some state lawmakers didn’t even see any need for separate court administration, believing clerks could handle that function.What came out in negotiations, where the Trial Court Budget Commission represented the court system, was a delineation of responsibilities and duties and a recognition that courts needed separate administrative services. The first draft of the final Revision 7 laws passed earlier this year left out any duty of the clerks to carry out policies set by chief judges, Morris said.The TCBC objected to that, and ultimately the statute was redrafted to say the clerks would carry out functions authorized by law or court rule, Morris added.“I do think there is an issue in this matter as to the credibility of the Trial Court Budget Commission to make an agreement. . . and live up to those agreements,” he said.Morris added that the Supreme Court’s rule-making authority over the courts is also involved. Certain lawmakers are interested in a constitutional amendment that would shift the authority to make procedural rules from the courts to the legislature — something Gov. Jeb Bush said he also supports.In addition, Morris said, lawmakers see the dispute as an appropriations issue — which is properly in the purview of the legislature — not one of how the courts function.“If this rule passes, I am going to be subject to a lot of questions from people in both chambers on court budget issues,” said Morris, who becomes TCBC chair in November.Baggett, of the clerks’ association, said the delineations in the Revision 7 laws were carefully worked out over two years.“Clerks are in a supporting role; they operate in support of the courts and under the administrative supervision of the chief judges, but as independent constitutional officers,” he said. “The comments you just heard from Judge Morris. . . are very supportive of us maintaining that distinction.”He also said the clerks would support the compromise language eventually approved by the board. President-elect Alan Bookman made the motion to suggest those changes to the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee.The board also reviewed a letter sent to Bar President Kelly Johnson by six legislators — Rep. Holly Benson, R-Pensacola; Rep. Dudley Goodlette, R-Naples; Rep. Joe Negron, R-Stuart; Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach; Rep. Jack Seiler, D-Pompano Beach; and Sen. Rod Smith, D-Gainesville — who said the proposed rule infringed on legislative prerogatives and that the legislature has already delineated duties of the courts and clerks. All six were deeply involved in drafting Revision 7 legislation and have received awards from the Bar in recognition of thier work.“The assignment of responsibilites by a judge to a non-judicial constitutional officer without a transfer of funding to match those responsibilities is tantamount to controlling the appropriations process,” the six lawmakers wrote., citing a 1991 Florida Supreme Court decision that said only the legislature could set the fiscal priorities. “Thus the proposed rule appears to violate Florida’s Separation of Powers doctrine.”The board approved Bookman’s motion by a 28-4 vote.One of the opponents, board member Robert Rush, said he didn’t think either the proposed amendment or the board’s suggested compromise were needed.“The amendment. . . tells someone to do what they’re already required to do,” he said, adding he believes the proposed amendment is unconstitutional and courts already have ways to enforce their wishes. “If the court issues an order directing the clerk to do something, that could be enforced by mandamus action.” Court clerks object to oversight by chief judges September 1, 2004 Gary Blankenship Senior Editor Regular Newslast_img read more

first_imgDoctors believe a woman’s silicone breast implants saved her life after she survived a close-range gunshot wound to the chest.SAGE medical journal published a case study last week where doctors described how a silicone breast implant deflected a bullet away from a 30-year-old woman’s vital organs.The incident took place in Toronto Canada two years ago. The woman suffered a gunshot wound, broken ribs and broken implants. None of her major organs were touched because the implant was likely responsible for deflecting the bullet’s trajectory, which saved her life, doctors said.Medics found the bullet in the woman’s right lower anterior thoracic wall below the right breast.Doctor’s removed the implants and she was cleared by the trauma service.The firearm was never recovered and the shooter remains unknown, according to the report.last_img read more