Judicial conferences, those shrimp cocktail and margarita fueled meetings in which Judges from around the state gather together to share stories (...." and then I said 'I don't care if you're getting married on Saturday and leaving on a honeymoon on Sunday, this grand theft is going to trial on Monday!' hahahahha!") are now under the gun in light of Florida's financial crisis:
A reader wrote in:
Channel 7 reported of two judicial conferences being scheduled before the end of the year.It was prompted by a Broward County judge,and unfortunately,it may be on point.
A "financial crisis"exists,yet hundred of thousands of dollars will be expended for a county court conference and circuit court conference within the next six weeks.The report also suggested how many people within the judicial system would have retained their respective positions had the funding for these conference been used for salaries instead.The figures were in excess of 20 in Miami Dade County,in excess of 15 in Broward,and in excess of 10 in Palm Beach County.The report also indicated the Chief Judges as well as Administrative Judges in each county did not respond or return calls to the reporter.
A Judge, robes and hackles raised in ire, the pending loss of cocktails (shrimp and otherwise) looming on the horizon, responded thusly:
As a "Robed-Reader" I want to say
In response to 10:20,
Judicial conferences are funded through a State Trust Fund, created ONLY for the purpose of the educational conferences. The funds can not be used for any other purpose.
The hotels charge ONLY a State negotiated rate and the daily food reimbursement is limited to same allotted for all state employees. It's about $21.00 for breakfast, lunch and dinner. ALL evening social activities are paid for by EACH Judge without reimbursement.
The hotels selected are chosen because they have meeting facilities large enough for each conference. (Motel 6 doesn't have enough rooms or meeting places.)
The Conference have already been reduced to 1 per year, with the December conferences already contracted for before the any budget issues arose. They are booked about 2 years in advance to make sure of availability.
Each Judge in REG has to be certified or recertified by the Supreme Court to handle Death cases. Check and see how many current and soon to be REG Judges, can't handle them because of the cancellation of AJS this year and no Death penalty course being offered. It's a 5 day program. The individual Conferences are only 3 days. AJS was the only one with the 5 required days.
And while you're looking at our benefits and salaries, please remember a few things, we CAN'T write-off for business purposes all of those things that you can. We have no PA to foot the bill. Our insurance package from Miami-Dade County, which provided supplemental medical coverage to the Sate insurance and was paid for partially by each individual was cancelled by the County, without the ability to replace it.
There have been no Judicial pay raises for 6 years and no cost of living adjustments for the last 5.
If the public doesn't already know we care, then it's up to you to make sure they do.
Rumpole says: while the "robed reader" may be correct, this is an appearance of arrogance. For all the problems our long suffering Judges have endured, they have a job, which as they well know, is more than some of the people they worked with a few months ago can say. They have health insurance, which is more than tens of millions of Americans can say.
I bet I could find three experts in death penalty law, and pay them $10,000.00 to record a ten hour lecture on new changes in the death penalty. And then our long suffering judges could get the video tape, and horrors of horrors, work a little on the weekend and watch the damn thing. I know golf scores will rise across the state, but that will be the price all citizens must pay in this crisis.
I'm sorry judge, but as your brethren say to me on a daily basis, I see your point, but I'm not convinced you're right on this one. Assuming your point on the death penalty is valid, just what were the County Court Judges (reported on in the Channel 7 report, the link is above) getting re-certified on in Naples this summer? Petit Theft sentencing? Updates on disorderly conduct trials? Really, that conference should have been canceled.