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2018 Court News Events

The Office of the State Courts Administrator (OSCA) provides information and brief write-ups about newsworthy events happening in and around the Florida court system. 


Recent News & Updates

Previous News from 2018 


Florida Courts Help App Wins Technology Award

The Florida State Courts System was honored with a 2018 Top Court Technology Solutions Award for its Florida Courts Help App.  Developed by OSCA, under the direction of the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice, the app provides easy access to a repository of resources for self-represented litigants seeking help with family law issues such as a divorce, an order of protection, a name change, or a stepparent adoption.  Conferred by the National Association for Court Management, the award was presented to Florida courts “in recognition of improved communication, operational efficiency, and access to justice using technology.”  (Take this link for more information about the Florida Courts Help app)

(posted July 2018) / Return to top of page 


Florida Courts Featured in the 2018 Trends in State Courts

The National Center for State Courts has published the 2018 Trends in State Courts, Courts and Society. 

This year’s Trends features two articles about Florida Courts initiatives. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Mari Sampedro-Iglesia has written about GRACE Court, the nation’s first unified human-trafficking court in the 11th Judicial Circuit. John Couch in the Office of the State Courts Administrator wrote an article on Florida’s Early Childhood Court Initiative.

Both of these articles are informative, effective, and positive reflections on innovative approaches in our state.

There are many other topics and programs highlighted in Trends from elsewhere in the country and these, too, are of interest for Florida. There are articles on New York’s approach to opioid intervention, access to justice and immigration issues in state courts, and forward-looking surveys of cybersecurity and courts, among much else.

(posted July 2018) / Return to top of page 


Eldercaring Coordination

By Judge Michelle Morley, 5th Judicial Circuit

Graphic of the Family Court e-newsletterLess than three years after the eight Florida Eldercaring Coordination Pilot Project Sites first launched, eldercaring coordination has now been recognized by the United Nations. On June 14, 2018, Linda Fieldstone and I, the co-chairs of the Florida Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts Eldercaring Coordination Initiative, presented on eldercaring coordination with Sue Bronson, co-chair of the Association for Conflict Resolution Elder Justice Initiative, at a program sponsored by the Committee on Ageing and the International Network for Prevention of Elder Abuse. It was attended by representatives from the U. N. Missions who are members of the Group of Friends of Older Persons. Eldercaring coordination was one of only two programs presented at the U. N. on behalf of North America.
 
There has been much discussion regarding eldercaring coordination and other guardianship issues becoming part of family divisions instead of probate divisions in order to avoid possible duplication of services, resources, and time from parties in the court. Eldercaring coordination is an alternative dispute resolution process that is intended to assist families driven by conflict over the care and future of an aging loved one. Modeled after parenting coordination, eldercaring coordination complements and works collaboratively with other professional services. Families are referred to eldercaring coordination by courts from guardianship, mental health, and adult protective services cases. Courts identify appropriate cases based on the following factors:

  • competing petitions to be appointed as guardian; or
  • inflammatory allegations demeaning other family members; or
  • failure to resolve issues in mediation, or
  • repeated and frequent motions raising “emergency” matters; or
  • family members with a win/lose mentality; or
  • imbalances of power — sometimes because of financial abilities, and sometimes because of the formation of alliances between family members; or
  • other similar indicators of high conflict within the family. 

Eldercaring Coordinators (ECs) are trained and qualified to work with family members and help them to let go of their differences, build commonalities, and focus their energy on the needs and welfare of their elder. Eldercaring coordination manages family dynamics, provides a support system as the elder transitions to distinct levels of care, addresses risks, and promotes safety of the elder, including monitoring situations where caregivers may be over-extended. Eldercaring coordination fosters self-determination of the aging loved one for as long as possible. The EC is appointed for a period of time up to two years so that the family can return to eldercaring coordination instead of court if new issues arise.
 
Fees for eldercaring coordination vary. The ECs set their own fees just like any other professionals. The Eldercaring Coordination Pilot Project Site Administrator works to best match a family to an EC who is the most accessible, affordable, culturally appropriate, and best-suited to the issues the family brings to the table. The judge referring the family to eldercaring coordination will allocate the EC’s fees among the parties. StayWell, the managing entity for Medicaid and Medicare in Florida and many other states, has bestowed a grant of $1,000 per pilot project site in recognition of family conflict being a healthcare issue for aging persons. StayWell hopes that its grant will enable more families to use the eldercaring coordination process to address family conflict. Beginning in 2019, StayWell members in Florida may also apply their coverage to the cost of eldercaring coordination when recommended by their care managers. 
 
The American Arbitration Association Foundation has provided a grant to supplement the cost for training ECs. At least one training for ECs is being planned for the fall as Maryland is piloting a new site, and Ohio and Idaho are expanding their pilot sites. Toronto, Ontario, and Orange County, California are also hoping to launch new Eldercaring Coordination Pilot Project Sites soon, too. The feedback that has been received on this groundbreaking approach to conflict in families caring for elders has all been positive.  In one case, the presiding judge remarked that it saved the life of an elder whose care was in abeyance until the EC helped the family develop a care plan. In another case, the elder remarked that this was the best Father’s Day he ever had because eldercaring coordination enabled family members, who had been blocked from visiting, to finally have access to him. The EC works with the family to develop better communication and negotiating skills so that the court does not have to micromanage the elder’s care. The judges who have referred cases to eldercaring coordination notice a marked reduction in the number if not a total elimination of contested hearings in those cases.
 
The following Florida jurisdictions are currently participating in the Eldercaring Coordination Pilot Project:

  • 5th Judicial Circuit (Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion, and Sumter Counties)
  • 7th Judicial Circuit (Volusia, Flagler, St. Johns, and Putnam Counties)
  •  9th Judicial Circuit (Orange and Osceola Counties)
  • 12th Judicial Circuit (Manatee and Sarasota Counties)
  • 13th Judicial Circuit (Hillsborough County)
  • 15th Judicial Circuit (Palm Beach County)
  • 17th Judicial Circuit (Broward County)
  • 18th Judicial Circuit (Seminole and Brevard Counties). 

If you are not in a pilot site circuit but are interested in bringing eldercaring coordination to your circuit, contact Linda Fieldstone  for more information. The process is simple. You will receive assistance in identifying people already in your Circuit who can be trained to become Eldercaring Coordinators. All the forms you will need to refer cases have been drafted in a template and will be made available for your use. You will receive preliminary training in identifying and referring cases, and an invitation to monthly meetings as well as continuous support available whenever you need it.   

Pictured above from left to right: Susan Somers, Judge Michelle Morley, Sue Bronson, and Linda Fieldstone participating at the 2018 World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Global Showcase event. Pictured above from left to right: Susan Somers, Judge Michelle Morley, Sue Bronson, and Linda Fieldstone participating at the 2018 World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Global Showcase event. "
Those at the U.N. presentation understood the urgency of responding to elders and their loved ones in the throes of conflict, and its influence on all of the family members when asked to: “Think of how you would want the story to unfold if it was your parent OR YOU in the middle of family turmoil when you are old, losing capacity, and afraid. Do you want to spend the last chapter amidst the downpour of flying accusations and heated arguments? A situation ripe for abuse and exploitation. Or would you prefer to have comforting time with family members collaborating to meet your needs and keeping you safe?  Remember what parents want most….for the family to all get along. Eldercaring coordination honors that aging person’s wish by giving their family the tools and support needed to create a legacy their aging loved one can feel proud of continuing for generations — a legacy of peace in the family.”
 
The U. N. presentation is accessible via UN Web TV.  More information on eldercaring coordination, can be found at Florida Eldercaring Coordination and the Ohio Channel broadcast of Court News: Ohio Judges Trained on Cutting the Conflict for Elderly Care.

 


Self-Help @ the Seventeenth: Offering Broward Residents “One-Stop Shopping” for Legal and Social Services

By Beth C. Schwartz, Court Publications Writer

With the exception of celebratory rites of passage like marriages and adoptions, courthouse visits are not typically associated with happy times in most people’s lives, notes Ms Lynn Allen, family court manager with the Seventeenth Circuit.  Indeed, “Going to a courthouse can be an exhausting, confusing, and stressful time” for people, she emphasizes.  And if they also need legal or social services to help them navigate court processes, and if they don’t know (or don’t know how to find out) which service providers to seek out—or if they go to an agency that can’t help them and they are directed to another agency across town, for instance—they may feel they’re having to negotiate “layers of barriers to get the assistance they need”—and to get access to the court generally.  In addition to being frustrating and overwhelming, this experience “wastes precious moments” and heightens people’s unease at an already-strained time in their lives.  Aiming to mitigate these kinds of tribulations, the Seventeenth Circuit recently introduced a new initiative called Self-Help @ the Seventeenth, which facilitates people’s access to the services they need, all under one courthouse roof.

Self-Help @ the Seventeenth comprises five different self-help centers that assist people with various legal and social issues.  From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week, anyone—regardless of income and regardless of whether a lawsuit has been filed—can visit the courthouse to receive free, on-site help from the following agencies:

  • Coast to Coast Legal Aid provides assistance with family cases and also provides referrals and assistance with domestic violence injunctions;
  • Broward 211 identifies and assists families in crisis or in need of housing and is also a referral base to all Broward social services;
  • South Florida Wellness Network is a recovery-focused, peer-run program that supports people wrestling with behavioral, emotional, mental health, trauma, and/or substance abuse issues;
  • Henderson Behavioral Health offers a variety of mental health and behavioral health services, crisis intervention, and referrals to local in-patient and out-patient services; and
  • Women in Distress of Broward provides victim compensation and relocation services and assistance to victims of domestic violence, including referrals to attorneys for legal assistance.
Ribbon-cutting Ceremony Self-Help @ the Seventeenth, Ribbon-cutting ceremony. Pictured L-R are: Cristina Castellanos, South Florida Wellness; William Spencer, 2-1-1- Broward; Gretchen Rovira, Henderson Behavioral Health; Chief Judge Jack Tuter; Trial Court Administrator Kathleen Pugh; Lisa Goldberg, Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South FL; Lynn Allen, Family Court Manager; Mary Riedel, Women in Distress

 

The “stars aligned” to make Self-Help @ the Seventeenth a reality, agree Ms Allen and Ms Kathy Pugh, the circuit’s trial court administrator.  When Broward County’s new courthouse, the Central Judicial Complex in downtown Fort Lauderdale, opened in March 2017, they quickly realized that they have more small offices for mediations and depositions than they need for those purposes.  So a lightbulb went on in Ms Allen’s head: she has been working in court administration for 24 years, so she remembers when the supreme court’s Family Court Steering Committee issued a recommendation, in a 2001 report, that each court institute a self-help program to provide intake, screening, and procedural guidance to self-represented litigants in family court cases.  And she also remembers that the Seventeenth Circuit had such a program—until it was eliminated with the 2004 implementation of the constitutional amendment known as Revision 7 (Revision 7 shifted a significant portion of the responsibility for funding the trial courts from the county to the state, and programs like self-help centers were no longer provided by the courts system).  With the un-utilized space in the new courthouse—and with the realization that no funding from the court or the state would be needed to bring the idea of a self-help program to fruition—Ms Allen and Ms Pugh reasoned that this would be an opportune time to restore the self-help program to Broward County.  And with Chief Judge Jack Tuter’s blessing, they began to flesh out their vision.

Ms Allen—whom Ms Pugh refers to as “the captain of this ship”—says that while the idea for this program evolved over a period of years, the last three years required most of the “hard work.”  But finding service providers who would be willing to get involved was not difficult: when invited to participate in this venture, “No agency said ‘no thank you’; they all said, ‘How can we do this?  Let's see how we can make this work,’” Ms Allen underscores.  “It’s been a collaborative effort since the beginning,” Ms Pugh adds.

To sustain their continued and constructive collaboration, Ms Allen and all the agency representatives have once-a-month meetings to identify and address any concerns or issues they may have.  The agency representatives also reaffirm their responsibility to identify the needs of all the people who seek them out, providing referrals to one another to ensure that each client receives the assistance he or she is seeking.  Moreover, if none of the five agencies provides a service that a client needs, they are responsible for referring that person to another community resource—and for helping them access that resource.  “The point is that anyone can hand a person a pamphlet,” Ms Allen stresses; “It’s the one-on-one face-time that is critical”—and that’s what Self-Help @ the Seventeenth guarantees.

Judges, court staff, and clerk of court staff across the state refer people to community-based services all the time.  That is nothing new, for “We know that the court is not the end-all answer to all a person’s needs,” Ms Allen points out.  But what’s different about Self-Help @ the Seventeenth is that “All these services are under the same roof—a one-stop shopping kind of experience.  This makes it so much easier for people,” she adds.  At the same time, Self-Help @ the Seventeenth is good for the court; as Ms Allen explains, “Someone might initially feel their only avenue for relief is a lawsuit.  But these resources might show them that they have other, better options,” thereby conserving the time and resources of the court (as well as of the parties themselves).  

The judicial branch is committed to ensuring that people have meaningful access to the courts, and with Chief Justice Jorge Labarga’s 2014 creation of the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice, Floridians are becoming more aware of the branch’s accessibility initiatives.  Self-Help @ the Seventeenth clearly supports court accessibility, particularly for people who represent themselves in court.  As Chief Judge Tuter says, “Our circuit continues to strive to address the needs of the self-represented.  Services provided by our expanded self-help center are available to people not just in the legal system, but anyone in need of help and regardless of income.”

(posted June 2018) / Return to top of page 


Honoring Judge T. Patt Maney: Okaloosa County Names Traffic Circle after Well-Loved Icon

By Justice Peggy A. Quince

On Monday, May 21, 2018, Judge T. Patterson Maney spent his last day as an active county court judge for Okaloosa County, Florida, saying goodbye to friends and colleagues and doing what he always does—clearing his docket.  He was determined to leave as clean a slate as possible for his successor.  However, the people of Ft. Walton Beach and Okaloosa County had some additional plans for this well-loved icon of this community.  At 4:00 p.m., the large courtroom on the third floor of the Okaloosa County Courthouse in Ft. Walton Beach was overflowing with family, friends, and colleagues of Judge Maney for a special ceremony.  A joint resolution was read that was entered by the County Commission of Okaloosa County and the City Counsel of Ft. Walton Beach, naming the roadway surrounding the courthouse as Judge Maney Way.  Judge Maney (retired Army reserve Brig. Gen. Maney) was visibly moved by the outpouring of love from a community he has served for over 29 years as a county court judge.

Presentations were made to Judge Maney from various entities of the court system, including an acknowledgment of his ground-breaking work with the veterans court.  Judge Maney, while a judge, was called to active duty and sent to service in Afghanistan.  On August 21, 2005, the SUV he and four others were traveling in was blown up, with Judge Maney sustaining serious, life-threatening injuries.  He spent the next two years at Walter Reed U.S. Army Medical Center battling for his life.  But recover he did and came back to the bench in Okaloosa County.  This experience, however, gave him a new perspective and understanding of the plight of our veterans.  This experience made Judge Maney the ideal person to handle the needs of veterans who find themselves involved in the judicial system.

After hearing some of Judge Maney’s life story and after many presentations from various community leaders, all of those present in the courtroom were invited to go outside for the unveiling of the sign that read “Judge Maney Way”!  What a deserving tribute to a man who has spent his life serving others. 

Judge Maney, the judiciary will truly miss your active service on the bench.  But we know that you will continue to give, for that is your nature.

(posted June 2018) / Return to top of page 


Members of OSCA Court Improvement Team Selected for Prudential Productivity Award

Congratulations to judges and staff of Florida’s courts and members of the OSCA’s Office of Court Improvement team recognized by the Prudential Productivity Awards for work on the Adult Post-Adjudicatory Drug Court Expansion Program.

The Expansion Program helps the state save millions with evidence-based diversion for screened participants to get community-based treatment services. It puts eligible individuals on a path to sobriety and a better life while diverting appropriate participants from prison. Outcomes include improved stability and success for participants and community gains with reduced crime than would otherwise occur in support of ongoing addiction and incarceration. The Expansion Program is operating in nine counties around the state.

The Expansion Program team documented savings of $3.8 million over three years. Jennifer Grandal, Aaron Gerson, Joshua Kuch, and Chris Korn are members of the team who work on the Expansion Program within the Office of the State Courts Administrator.

Adult Post-Adjudicatory Drug Courts operate in:

Escambia and Okaloosa counties in the First Judicial Circuit;
Marion County in the Fifth Judicial Circuit
Pinellas County in the Sixth Judicial Circuit
Volusia County in the Seventh Judicial Circuit
Orange County in the Ninth Judicial Circuit
Polk County in the 10th Judicial Circuit
Hillsborough County in the 13th Judicial Circuit
Broward County in the 17th Judicial Circuit
Seminole County in the 18th Judicial Circuit

The Office of Court Improvement along with judges and staff in courts around the state continue to serve the judicial branch and the people of Florida with distinction.

Since 1989, the Prudential Productivity Awards program has recognized state employees for innovation and productivity gains that improve the delivery of state services and save money for Florida taxpayers and businesses. In the 28 years it’s been held, more than 16,000 nominations have been received, and awards have been given to state employees for saving or maximizing state dollars totaling more than $9.2 billion.

Read more about the program on our website

(posted May 2018) / Return to top of page 


Judicial Campaign Conduct Forums

Instituted in 1998, Judicial Campaign Conduct Forums are generally offered in the spring of election years for circuits in which a contested judicial election will be taking place.  These 90-minute forums focus on the necessity for integrity and professionalism among candidates for judicial office, the impact of campaign conduct on public trust and confidence in the justice system, and the dire consequences of violating Canon 7 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which governs political conduct by judges and judicial candidates.  The forums are coordinated by the supreme court, the trial court chief judges, the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, and the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar.  (To learn more about the standards for ethical behavior governing judicial candidates, see An Aid to Understanding Canon 7, prepared by the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee.) 

This year, the forums are scheduled Thursday and Friday, May 10 and 11th, in ten cities throughout the state.  The Thursday forums will take place in Jacksonville, Miami, Pensacola, Tampa, and West Palm Beach; the Friday forums will be held in Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers, Gainesville, Orlando, and Tallahassee.  The forums will begin at 1:00 P.M. 

All judicial candidates seeking contested seats or facing active opposition are encouraged to attend, and the forums are also open to campaign managers and their staff, local political party chairs, presidents of local bar associations, the media, and the public.   (Take this link to read the press release.)  

(posted May 2018) / Return to top of page 


State Courts Administrator PK Jameson Highlights Law Day in a New Video Feature

Law Day has been marked on May 1 every year since 1958, when President Dwight Eisenhower declared the first observance of Law Day honoring the nation’s heritage of liberty, justice, and equality under the law.

State Courts Administrator PK Jameson opens a new video feature on Florida courts work by highlighting Law Day and other initiatives underway now.

Law Day and Law Week are also designated in Florida statutes. Law week is marked during the week containing May 1.

This year, the American Bar Association has selected the Separation of Powers as the theme for Law Week. The system of checks on balances on power among the government’s three branches is a defining element of the American Republic. It was recognized by those drafting the Constitution as a vital part of their work, commented on in the Federalist Papers as the nation’s foundational legal document was being considered.

“In order to lay a due foundation for that separate and distinct exercise of the different powers of government, which to a certain extent, is admitted on all hands to be essential to the preservation of liberty, it is evident that each department should have a will of its own; and consequently should be so constituted, that the members of each should have as little agency as possible in the appointment of the members of the others,” James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 51, first published in 1788.

Separation of powers among branches was essential at the time of the country’s founding and it remains of great importance to protect it today.

“We the people must continually act to ensure that our constitutional democracy endures, preserving our liberties and advancing our rights,” according to the American Bar Association material. ”The Law Day 2018 theme enables us to reflect on the separation of powers as fundamental to our constitutional purpose and to consider how our governmental system is working for ourselves and our posterity.”

You can see more about this year’s theme at the ABA’s website

(posted May 2018) / Return to top of page 


Helping New Appellate Judges Prepare for Judicial Service

By Beth C. Schwartz, Court Publications Writer

“Welcome to the best job in the world,” Chief Justice Labarga has been known to exclaim as he greets the judges who are about to take part in the three-day New Appellate Judges Program.  What makes this job “the best,” he explains, is that appellate judges, working together in panels, have the opportunity for thoughtful review of the decisions of the lower tribunals; they “have time to think, time to contemplate” their decisions.  Because this work situation is unique to the appellate courts, all new appointees, whether they come directly from the practice of law or from the trial court bench, benefit from assistance with transitioning to judicial service on the appellate bench.  And that is what the New Appellate Judges Program seeks to provide.  Offered annually, this dynamic judicial education program was established in 1991, and attendance is required by all new appellate judges. 

After the chief justice’s welcome, the appellate dean of the program and one of its lead faculty members, Chief Judge Jonathan Gerber, Fourth DCA, sets the stage for the demanding agenda upon which participants are about to embark.  He likens the program to a “discussion” about matters of relevance and concern to appellate judges, stressing that the program is decidedly “not prescriptive.”  Rather, it “gives you things to think about” and opportunities to share “ideas with the different faculty members and your colleagues here”—but, in the end, “you must decide what works best for you.”  He assures attendees that, for those who seek to learn “how I can do my job better, this program will help.”

Indeed, the curriculum for this education program, consisting of a balance of lecture-style sessions and participatory learning experiences, gives attendees many opportunities to absorb, analyze, discuss, and put to the test practices designed to help them do their jobs better.  Approximately half the program consists of information-imparting sessions on topics like ethics, certiorari and writs, motions and fees, supreme court jurisdiction, statutory interpretation, and post-conviction issues.  The other sessions, which tend to be interactive in nature, give the new appellate judges practical opportunities to ponder, and to engage in energetic colloquies about, matters of pertinence to those who sit on the appellate bench—such as jurisdictional considerations, oral argument do’s and don’ts, working collegially (they reflect on crossing from the “solitary work of a trial court judge or lawyer” to being part of, and learning to work and to write as part of, a panel of judges), and strategies for becoming a better writer (Judge Gerber offers advice on “going from a Picasso to a Mona Lisa in your opinions”).

The 2018 New Appellate Judges Program unfolded during the first week of April, at the Florida Supreme Court.  When the program takes place in Tallahassee, it offers a special perk: participants get a chance to meet and interact with all the supreme court justices.  This year, their first opportunity came on the first day of the program: built into the schedule was “Lunch with the Florida Supreme Court.”  During this informal lunch hour, after introductions were made all around, Judge Gerber invited the justices to share some advice about being an appellate judge—and they responded candidly and helpfully, with words both of a professional and a personal nature.  Clearly, the opportunities for learning transpire on a great many levels at the New Appellate Judges Program.

(posted April 2018) / Return to top of page 


Families and Children in the Court, Substance and Mental Health Issues work to 'break down our silos'

By Judge Christine Greider and Judge Steve Leifman

As chairs of the Steering Committee on Families and Children in the Court and the Task Force on Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues in the Courts, we are pleased to report on a productive joint meeting that took place involving these two Supreme Court governance groups. Members of the Steering Committee and Task Force convened in Tampa on Feb. 22 to collaborate on important overarching issues.

The Steering Committee’s goal has historically been to establish a fully integrated, comprehensive approach to handling all cases involving children and families, while the Task Force has been charged to address the needs and challenges of individuals with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders who become involved in the justice system. Both of these groups address incredibly complex, deeply-rooted societal problems that require community-wide responses to have a chance at being solved.

Addressing these problems from silos is ineffective. As chairs of these two groups, we are very grateful for the opportunity to work with such committed judges, magistrates, and court leaders who have been spearheading systems change initiatives at community and statewide levels. But the courts alone cannot solve these vexing issues, which is why we are also fortunate that the Steering Committee and Task Force is comprised of stakeholders spanning a vast array of disciplines, including representatives from school districts, behavioral and mental health organizations, universities, the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Health, the Guardian ad Litem Program, state attorney offices, public defender offices, the private bar, and other community organizations.

It’s no surprise that crossover issues have emerged that these two groups have been concurrently tackling. These overlapping issues, along with the recognition that we must break down our silos to effectively solve these problems, served as the impetus for this joint meeting. Between the two groups, over 60 members attended the meeting; Justice Barbara Pariente and Justice Peggy Quince, the Supreme Court liaisons for the Steering Committee and Task Force respectively, attended as well. As a result of attending, members from both groups were able to discuss common initiatives and determine the necessary follow-up actions.

The first issue that members addressed was problem-solving court standards and certification. This issue of consistency and institutionalization of practice – that is maintained across judicial rotations and staff turnover — is of paramount importance in the handling of both family and criminal court cases. In a previous term, the Task Force developed Adult Drug Court Best Practice Standards, which were subsequently approved by the Supreme Court. A subcommittee of the Task Force is currently working on a proposed certification framework for the approved standards that will ensure that drug courts are operating with fidelity to the standards. Task Force members shared with Steering Committee members the process they went through in creating the standards as well as the ongoing work to develop a certification framework. This topic is directly related to a current initiative of the Steering Committee in the area of pursuing best practice standards for Early Childhood Courts, Florida’s newest problem-solving court docket. The Steering Committee has mirrored the efforts of the Task Force by developing Early Childhood Court best practice standards, with the goal of the standards being approved by the Supreme Court. During yesterday’s meeting, it was extremely helpful for Steering Committee members to hear from Task Force members on the lessons learned in regard to the development and implementation of their standards. The Steering Committee members who are currently embarking down this parallel path for Early Childhood Court standards left the meeting armed with the knowledge of pitfalls to avoid and promising practices to employ. As a result of the meeting, the Task Force fidelity workgroup will review the Steering Committee’s Early Childhood Court Standards and provide feedback.

The Baker Act is another overarching issue that is currently being addressed by both groups and was discussed at the meeting. The Task Force is charged with monitoring the implementation of recent legislative changes relating to the Baker Act and providing training and technical assistance on how the changes should apply to the judicial processing of Baker Act cases. Task Force members have examined the Baker Act process from many angles, including assessment, evaluation, and receipt of services. The Steering Committee has focused on juvenile Baker Acts within the context of its monitoring of school-justice partnerships that ensure children involved in family court cases stay in school and are less likely to be arrested, suspended, or expelled. The recent reduction in school-related arrests, expulsions, and arrests, coupled with an uptick in juvenile Baker Acts prompted the Steering Committee to look at this relationship more closely. Steering Committee and Task Force members discussed current Baker Act legislation, the recent Task Force on Involuntary Minors report, and commonalities between each group’s Baker Act initiatives.

For several years, the Steering Committee has been promoting trauma-responsive practices for family courts to adopt and use. A product of these effort is the Steering Committee’s Trauma and Child Development Family Court Tool Kit. In addition, OSCA has developed a trauma curriculum that judicial circuits can use to conduct local trauma-responsive court trainings. The discussion at yesterday’s meeting prompted the expansion of the tool kit and curriculum to be applied to all case types since trauma is certainly a primary factor in drug courts, mental health courts, veterans courts, and criminal courts as a whole. As a result of the meeting, pertinent information and practices will be imported from the trauma tool kit and be applied to other case types.

Lastly, both of these groups shared ideas on judicial branch strategies to address the opioid crisis. As with the other issues discussed at this meeting, the sentiment was expressed that we must not operate out of our individual silos to address this epidemic. And with state and federal funds and technical assistance coming in to the state from so many directions, it is imperative that we also ensure that new silos are not created to accompany the influx of new resources. Members also expressed how vital it is that we do not lose sight of addiction treatment for other drugs since Florida’s addiction problem is not limited to any particular substance. After a legislative update, an overview of state and federal funding resources, and case-type-specific responses, Steering Committee and Task Force members brainstormed court-related approaches to the crisis in the following four domains: judicial education, judicial leadership, judicial decision making, and the role of chief judges and trial court administrators. Both groups believe strongly that a comprehensive and coordinated court response to the opioid crisis is a prudent use of government funds and is in the best interest of children, families, and judicial economy.

With the 2016-2018 Steering Committee and Task Force terms coming to an end in June, this meeting offered an opportunity to reflect on all of the great work that has been going on across the state and also served as a catalyst to continue pushing this important work forward in new and challenging directions. We would both like to sincerely thank all of the members for their engagement, and we look forward to more collaborations in the future.

(posted February 2018) / Return to top of page