Judicial Management Council
For more than six decades, the judicial branch has benefitted from the guidance of its judicial management councils (JMCs), which are described as high-level management consultants to the supreme court. Established in November 2012, the current JMC—which is the branch’s fifth—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.” The JMC’s first chair, then Chief Justice Ricky Polston, called the council the “headlights of the branch, shining a high beam toward the future.”
The JMC has 15 voting members: the chief justice and another justice, representatives from each level of court, and public members; the state courts administrator is a nonvoting member. In addition, on a temporary, as-needed basis, the council invites others to participate as nonvoting members. Meeting at least quarterly, the JMC has five areas of responsibility: to identify potential crisis situations affecting the branch and develop strategies for addressing them; to identify and evaluate information that will assist in improving the performance and effectiveness of the branch; to develop and monitor progress related to the branch’s long-range planning endeavors; to review the charges of the various court and Florida Bar commissions and committees, recommending consolidation or revision, and propose a method for coordinating the work of these bodies; and to address issues that the court brings to the council. (See Rule 2.225, Florida Rules of Judicial Administration.)
The JMC was designed to function as a nimble body that can respond swiftly and dynamically to administrative issues the branch is facing. This agility is achieved through the creation of workgroups, each of which is charged with specific tasks and usually sunsetted when its tasks are completed. Initially, the chief justice created three workgroups: Performance; Education and Outreach; and Access to Justice. The Performance Workgroup, after reviewing filing and disposition trends by case type and level of work, made recommendations to the court about how to meet future branch needs for uniform and consistent data reporting and analysis in some crucial performance areas. The Education and Outreach Workgroup—which addressed issues relating to effective internal and external communication, public trust and confidence, and the use of clear, unified messages within and outside the judicial branch—updated the branch-wide communication plan; Delivering Our Message: Court Communication Plan for the Judicial Branch of Florida, January 2016 was approved by the supreme court, and implementation began in January 2016. The Access to Justice Workgroup began the development of interactive, web-based, guided Do-It-Yourself (“DIY”) interviews to facilitate self-represented litigants’ access to the courts. This workgroup was sunset in 2020, at which time the Office of the State Courts Administrator in collaboration with the Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers took over the continued development of DIY interviews. Please see DIY Florida for more information.
In more recent years, JMC workgroups have been formed to address trial court security, guardianship, county court jurisdiction, court costs and fines, appellate review of county court decisions, and remote appearance. Notable outcomes based on or informed by the work of these workgroups have included:
- The implementation of enhanced trial court security measures, training, and coordination with law enforcement and other local security partners.
- The creation of judicial training on guardianship and standardized guardianship forms for use by the public.
- The development of an electronic system for the assessment of court costs and fines and training for users on the system.
- The increase of small claims jurisdiction in court rule from $5,000 to $8,000 and the adoption of legislation that increased county court jurisdiction to $30,000 beginning January 1, 2020 (will increase to $50,000 beginning January 1, 2023).
- The adoption of legislation that transferred circuit court authority to hear appeals from most county court final orders and judgments to the district courts of appeal beginning January 1, 2021.
- The development of recommendations to more expansively employ remote technology for the conduct of court proceedings, which were ultimately addressed through rule amendments proposed by the Workgroup on Continuity of the Court Operations and Proceedings During and After COVID-19 in 2021 in Florida Supreme Court Case No. SC21-990.
- The development of recommendations to implement differentiated case management in civil cases. In Florida Supreme Court Case No. SC22-122, the Court made a series of phased referrals for the refinement and study of the Workgroup’s proposals.
At this time, there are two active workgroups under the JMC: 1) the Workgroup on Judicial Practices in the Trial Courts and 2) the Workgroup on Access to Justice.
The JMC is also responsible for developing and monitoring the branch’s Long-Range Strategic Plan. In the fall of 2021, the JMC made its latest updates to the plan, which were approved by the supreme court. Implementation of the 2022-2027 Long-Range Strategic Plan began in January 2022.
For more information about the branch’s management councils, please see the Short History of Florida State Courts System Processes, Programs, and Initiatives.