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Proposal to enlarge high court loses wind

Instead, a House committee approves a study of the Supreme Court's workload.


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 12, 2000

TALLAHASSEE -- A plan to expand the Florida Supreme Court from seven justices to nine died Tuesday for the second time in the 2000 legislative session.

State Rep. Dudley Goodlette, the Naples Republican who sponsored the initial House bill to expand the court, proposed an alternative Tuesday morning: Spend the summer studying whether the high court is overworked and come back next year to reconsider the expansion.

The House Judiciary Committee approved the idea, which was offered as an amendment to a bill that changes the way the state court system is funded.

Goodlette's initial plan gave Gov. Jeb Bush power to appoint two additional justices and to choose the chief justice, who would serve for six years. Goodlette, an attorney, cited court statistics showing 20 percent more cases pending at the end of 1999 than were pending at the end of the previous year.

His new measure came two weeks after Bush said he would not support expanding the court unless justices said they wanted the expansion.

But Goodlette said Bush's position had not swayed him. Instead, he said he was concerned about accusations that Republican lawmakers were lashing out at the court because of "ideological" differences.

"We've had seven justices for 60 years," Goodlette said. "We can have seven justices for two more."

The new plan would create a seven-member commission, led by a former justice, that would recommend by February whether to increase the number of justices.

The idea of expanding the court initially surfaced in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell, D-Fort Lauderdale. Campbell later withdrew the bill, claiming he had done so to intentionally foil Republicans.

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