Court fees assessed and paid by Florida’s citizens to access their court system should be dedicated to the court system, as already provided for by state law.
Section 28.37(1), Florida Statutes, states: “Pursuant to s. 14(b), Art. V of the State Constitution, selected salaries, costs, and expenses of the state courts system shall be funded from a portion of the revenues derived from statutory fines, fees, service charges, and costs collected by the clerks of court.” In reality, only a small portion of filing fee revenue is dedicated to the courts to support mediation and judicial education programs. The rest of the revenues – from fees, fines, and costs that are not being held by the clerks to fund their offices – is going into Florida’s general revenue fund to fund the general purposes of Florida government.
In Florida’s system of government, user fees are commonly dedicated back to those functions of government being used by a citizen paying the fee. It is an easily understood, widely accepted, common sense concept. But the filing fees that court users are paying are not being allocated to the courts. As a consequence of the budget reductions that have occurred, citizens are beginning to experience unreasonable delays in having their cases addressed. A vivid example of this phenomenon is the mortgage foreclosure crisis. Filings have increased from FY 2005-06 to FY 2007-08 by 396%. Clearance rates have dropped to 41%. The fee revenue generated by those additional foreclosure filings could be used by the courts to expand their capacity to process cases more quickly. But that is not happening because the revenue is going to the clerks of court and to the State’s general revenue fund. In short, people continue to pay filing fees for timely justice, but the justice they are receiving is being delayed.