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State courts face budget reductions

first_img State courts face budget reductions Amy K. Brown Assistant EditorThe state judicial system has weathered the Florida Legislature’s second and final special session with fewer budget cuts than expected, but there will still be severe scrimping and likely some layoffs.Monies for essential court operations have been preserved, but auxiliary programs within the justice system suffered, including programs related to crime prevention and the state attorney and public defender offices.Cuts to the courts’ budget total 1.3 percent this year, or a 2.3-percent annualized cut for FY 2002-03, according to Senate President John McKay, R-Bradenton. The courts also fared well in relation to the 3.7-percent overall cut to programs within the budget’s Public Safety and Judiciary category.“We had to make some cuts, but we know how important a well-functioning court system is to the people of the State of Florida,” McKay said. “Therefore, we wanted to minimize the cuts at the court level as much as possible.. . . Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue to offer the same kind of protection during the regular session.”“We ended up with cuts, but with cuts we understand and cuts we’re able to sustain without impairing our ability to operate,” said Lisa Goodner, deputy state courts administrator. “We were able to not sustain any cuts to those elements of our budget that we feel are essential to carry out our mission. We feel these are reductions we can adjust to.” Sen. Anna Cowin, R-Leesburg, chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety and Judiciary, said, “I like to think that we used a scalpel and everyone was working together. It was a difficult task, but made easy because everyone was focused on the same goal.“The courts should feel very little,” Cowin added. “As a matter of fact, we kept intact the raises for the state attorney and public defenders, we maintained the 27 new judgeships online for January, we protected the trial courts, and we maintained the dependency courts and the guardian ad litem [program].”But certain programs, like the Ninth Circuit’s Attorney Ad Litem pilot program and the Indigency Examiner Program, have had their funding drastically reduced or removed. Sen. McKay’s office noted, though, that the legislature has made certain through proviso language that a portion of the $1.3 million increase appropriated for the Guardian Ad Litem program during the current year “will be allocated. . . to mitigate the impact to dependency cases that might result from eliminating the Attorney Ad Litem program.”Funds shifts from different trust funds let the cuts run wide, but not deep.The Supreme Court Law Library lost more than $72,000, and overall, the Supreme Court lost more than $450,000. At least $150,000 of that was funding for technology-related needs.The District Courts of Appeal lost nearly $145,000. The Pinellas County and Brevard County Drug Courts lost $760,000 combined. The trial courts look to have lost more than $1.7 million.Funding for state attorneys, public defenders, and capital collateral regional counsels has been cut by a total of 2.3 percent — about $18.8 million dollars. However, $10 million in trust funds has been allotted, for a net reduction of $8.8 million. Additionally, state attorneys and public defenders have been allowed flexibility to implement the reductions through furloughs, rather than permanent layoffs.“They were worse than we hoped, but not as bad as they could’ve been,” said Jerry Blair, Third Circuit State Attorney and president of the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association. “The impact is going to vary from circuit to circuit, but when you receive the kind of budget cut that we received, it’s obviously going to impact on salaries.”At least some of the state attorneys offices will be forced to furlough employees, Blair said, and a few may have to lay people off.Michael J. Satz, state attorney for the 17th Judicial Circuit in Broward, wrote in a recent letter to the Sun-Sentinel that “the recent budget cut — nearly $500,000 out of a $23.2-million annual budget — means that our 188 attorneys and 248 support staffers in the 17th Circuit may be asked to take several days off without pay. Everyone in this office, from secretaries to prosecutors, already earn salaries much lower than in the private sector. Losing even one day of pay is a hardship.”Fifth Circuit Public Defender Skip Babb, president of the Florida Public Defenders Association, agreed, though, that things aren’t as bad as previously expected.“We lost $2.6 million in our trial function and over $200,000 in appeals. That certainly is going to affect us,” he said. “But it could have been worse. They were toying with a percentage of 10 to 12 percent not a month ago. That would’ve been devastating. That would’ve been clients that languished in jail without seeing a lawyer for months.”Babb also worries that the sluggish economy may dictate even larger cuts next year.“We’re trying to survive and we hope we’ve seen the worst,” said Babb. “If the economy doesn’t pick up, they’re talking big numbers next year. There’s not going to be a reduction in prosecution, so any reduction for us will be more work for lawyers who are already overworked.”And cuts in ancillary justice department programs may also affect how the agencies do their jobs.“I don’t think any of us anticipate that it’s going to be business as usual anytime soon,” Blair said. “All of us have legitimate concerns that budget cuts in other areas are going to affect us.”Cuts in juvenile justice crime prevention programs and supervision programs — which make for the largest chunk of the reductions — may have an adverse impact on the entire criminal justice system, Blair said. And if the economy bounces back, as often predicted, and which some experts say could generate more crime, the system could also be ill-prepared for that.The Department of Corrections Probation Program was set to lose 409 positions and $19.1 million, upping the ratio of average caseloads from one officer to 67 probationers to one to 79 (a 31-percent increase). However, Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed the cut and wrote, “This reduction would adversely affect public safety.. . . ”The governor also vetoed the elimination of positions within the Department of Law Enforcement that support domestic violence data analysis.Nearly $27 million was shaved from educational services in prisons and substance abuse treatment for inmates and probationers, and 85 positions were removed.The Juvenile Probation Program will suffer reductions totaling $12 million and 270 jobs, but probation caseload ratios should not increase by more than 10 percent. Funding for juvenile commitment/treatment beds has been reduced by $8.5 million, but will only affect beds not yet operational.Overall, reductions in the juvenile delinquency prevention services budget total $10.8 million — a 15 percent annualized reduction.On a positive note, the hundreds of jobs “cut” may not result in massive layoffs, according to Sen. Cowin, because the majority of the cuts were to positions that have yet to be filled.But efforts will be made in the next session to alleviate the financial woes of some of the hardest hit programs, she added.The courts, as well, are looking to the future, especially with a July 2004 deadline looming for compliance with constitutional Amendment 7, passed in 1998 and which mandates that the state pick up a larger portion of trial courts’ expenses.“I have a genuine concern. . . that we do not sustain any substantial cuts or reductions in our budget for the upcoming fiscal year,” said Chief Justice Charles Wells. “We simply require the administrative positions we have in the trial courts for the trial courts to carry out [their] functions. We likewise require the positions we have in the State Courts Administrator’s Office.. . . This constitutional deadline requires that we have the court administration staff with which to make this transition.” State courts face budget reductions January 1, 2002 Assistant Editor Regular Newslast_img read more


A Grand Bay man released on $32, 000 bail for four charges of possession of Cannabis, firearm and ammunition

first_img Share 16 Views   no discussions Tweet Share LocalNews A Grand Bay man released on $32, 000 bail for four charges of possession of Cannabis, firearm and ammunition by: – August 15, 2011center_img In photo: rounds of ammunition. Photo credit: inetres.comThirty- three year old Levi Gregoire of Grand Bay who was arrested on Friday last week, had four charges of possession of Cannabis, firearm and ammunition read to him at the Magistrate’s Court in Roseau this morning.The Defendant pleaded guilty to all the charges which were filed by Constable Maximea A of the Commonwealth of Dominica Police Force.According to the facts presented to the Court by the Prosecutor; “a search warrant was executed on the Defendant’s premises on Friday 12th August, 2011 at about 5:30pm. While conducting the search, Constable Maximea A opened a draw of a table close to the bed in one of the bedrooms and found three rounds of ammunition. Constable Maximea A questioned the Defendant about the fruits of his search to which the Defendant replied, ‘Officer while I was cleaning inside Bubbles I get that, I just bring it there” he was also asked whether he possessed a firearms license to which he replied ‘no officer.’ Constable Maximea A then informed him that he needed a license in order to possess the ammunition to which he again replied, ‘officer I tell you is by Bubbles I get that and bring it there.’ While searching the kitchen Constable Maximea also found a clear plastic bag which contained substances which appeared to be Cannabis. The Defendant was arrested and taken to the Police Headquarters in Roseau and the contents of the plastic placed in an evidence bag and sent to the lab for testing. An analysis report confirmed that the contents of the clear plastic bag was in fact Cannabis and weighed 368 grams. Both the Cannabis and Analysis Report were tendered into evidence and marked “AN1”, the three bags containing the ammunition were also tendered into evidence and marked “AN2’, and the search warrant marked “AN3.”Defense Counsel Wayne Norde in making a plea in mitigation for his client asked the Court to be lenient as this is his first offence.“The Defendant is a young man in his prime; he is an electrician and farmer by profession. He is the father of three children, he pleaded not guilty, he has been very cooperative and Constable Maximea A can support that. He’s not resisting the facts, he admitted and explained the circumstances in which he came upon them. He didn’t intend to harm anyone and found it at Bubbles and inadvertently brought it home. Unfortunately he found himself in possession of a spent shell and I think that he has learnt a lesson. We are asking the Court that he not be given a custodial sentence as this is his first offence; he is a virgin in relation to his record. He did not waste the Court’s time and we are asking the Court to be lenient with him.During sentencing Magistrate Evelina Baptiste informed the Defendant that she had considered the factors in his favour being that he is a first time offender and that he did not waste the Court’s time and those not in his favour; the prevalence of these types of offenses within the society and the amount of Cannabis and live rounds of ammunition.Levi Gregoire was ordered to pay $12, 750.00 on or before the 31st day of March, 2012 or in default he could serve twenty nine months in prison.His uncle Clevelle Gregoire and the sister of his common law wife Mandy St. Luce served as his sureties on his behalf. As part of his bail conditions, he is to report every Wednesday between the hours of 7am and 7pm at the Grand Bay Police Station and surrender his passport and all travel documents to the police immediately.Meantime Nerissa Lavenir, who was also arrested on Friday and granted bail over the weekend was informed by Magistrate Baptiste that the matters have been dismissed for lack of prosecution.Dominica Vibes News Sharing is caring! Sharelast_img read more