Chief Judge Robert Morris, Jr. Speaks to Rotary Club of Clearwater
Rotarian Judge George Greer introduced Chief Judge Robert Morris, Jr. at a recent meeting of the Rotary Club of Clearwater, on Wednesday noon at the Belleair Country Club. Judge Morris spoke generally on the State of the Judiciary.
Born in Jacksonville, Judge Morris was raised in Florida and the Bahamas. He received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Florida College of Journalism, and was inducted into Florida Blue Key. He received his Juris Doctor from DePaul University College of Law, and also received an American Jurisprudence award for scholarship.
In 2001, Governor Jeb Bush appointed him Circuit Judge, Sixth Judicial Circuit. He was elected Chief Judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit without opposition in 2007, and received the Castagna Award for Judicial Excellence last year.
Judge Morris explored with the Rotarians, the recent issue of funding of the Circuit Judges. The Circuit Court produces an income of over 900 million dollars for the state coffers, while expenses of the Court range in the area of 450 million. Yet, the budget approved for the Courts is about 50 million less than what is needed to provide services for the third busiest court in the State. The State Legislature is now considering changing the method of collecting court related revenues. The intent is to direct all revenue to the legislative budget committees, so they can then distribute funds to entities in the justice system, including the courts, state attorneys and public defenders.
Currently court revenues are collected by the Clerks of Court, but are turned over to the states general revenue fund, only after the budget of the Clerk of Courts is met. This is the only state funded entity that manages public dollars without legislative oversight.
Public schools, police departments and social service agencies, all have oversight on budgets by the legislature. Current legislation is asking that Court revenues be collected by the Clerks of Court, but ALL of the funds be directed to the States General Fund, and that the Clerk of Courts budget be placed under legislative oversight.
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