Academic journal article Justice System Journal

The Impact of Revision 7 on the Technical Efficiency of Florida's Circuit Courts*

Academic journal article Justice System Journal

The Impact of Revision 7 on the Technical Efficiency of Florida's Circuit Courts*

Article excerpt

In 1998 Florida voters approved Article V, Revision 7, which changed the state circuit courts from county/state funding to nearly full state funding during the 2004/05 fiscal year. Although increased efficiency was a goal of Revision 7, no published studies exist on the impacts of Revision 7 on court efficiency. Resource dependency and institutional theory, two open-natural system frameworks, are used to predict whether Florida's circuit courts have become more efficient over the policy span of Revision 7 (1993-2008). The results reveal that only 3 of 300 Florida circuits are technically efficient; the mean efficiency score is .76. Analysis of variance determined Florida circuits became significantly less efficient over time. Small- and medium-sized circuits lost efficiency, large circuits showed no change, and analysis of covariance modeling revealed a significant interaction effect between circuit size and the Revision 7 period.

The national economic downturn over the past several years has had a great impact on state courts, especially in Florida where "the court budget is one of the worst in the nation" (Stawicki, 2008). A policy change (hereafter referred to as "Revision 7") was implemented in Florida during the 2004/05 fiscal year that changed the mechanism of circuit court funding from a local/state mix to full- state -funding control. This change was voted into law in 1998 by the citizens of Florida (Florida State Constitution, Article V, Revision 7, 1998, as cited by Florida Supreme Court, 2000; Baskin, 2004; Carlson, Harrison, and Hudzik, 2008). Before this change, circuit court funding in Florida had been the joint responsibility of the state and counties (Tobin and Pankey, 1994).

Revision 7 was a five -part amendment that passed statewide, 57 to 43 percent. Using data available from the Florida Department of State, Division of Election (1998), 15 of 20 circuits approved Revision 7 (53 percent in small circuits, 54 percent in medium-sized circuits and 58 percent in large circuits). At the county level, 37 of 67 counties voted for Revision 7 with at least 51 percent in favor. The first four parts dealt with judicial selection, retention, term limits of county judges, and term limits of members that serve on the judicial qualification committee. The fifth and final part of Revision 7 - the transferring of court-funding responsibility from a state/county mix to mainly state funding - has the deepest implications for the Florida court system but to date has no publicly available empirical evidence as to its impact.

Carlson, Harrison, and Hudzik (2008) researched Revision 7 as a case study, offering that the policy was introduced and supported mainly by the counties as a way to shift the cost of the courts from the local dedication of county funds to the state's general fund. The perception that smaller circuits and smaller counties within larger circuits were not funded equitably was another issue, making circuit and county size a factor in the push for unitary state funding. Further motivation was proffered that state policymakers wanted more control of the judicial branch due to court decisions they disagreed with and because there was a general consensus among policymakers that the courts were inefficient. While motivations of policy change cannot be empirically studied, efficiency as a performance indicator can and should be.

Lost in the broad debate over control of court funding has been attention to a basic element of public organization performance that is especially pertinent in tumultuous economic times: technical efficiency, which is the use of inputs to achieve certain levels of output. Court systems are under pressure to become more efficient in the United States (Flango and Ostrom, 1996; Lewin, Morey, and Cook, 1982) as well as in Europe (see Ng, Velicogna, and Dallara, 2006) . The perception that the Florida circuit court system and circuits are inefficient appears absent evidence about efficiency outcomes either in sum or with respect to its parts, especially in light of the Revision 7 policy intervention. …

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