ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Judges for the Ninth Circuit Court in Orange County now face a backlog that amounts to more than 18,000 cases per civil judge, according to data obtained by News 6.
The backlog within Orange County’s County Civil Division, which handles cases involving less than $30,000, has risen 57% since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have more cases than we can say grace over,” Chief Judge Lisa Munyon said.
Munyon took over as Chief Judge for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, which covers Orange and Osceola Counties, on July 1.
She said tackling the civil court backlog caused by the shutdown of the courthouse during the height of the coronavirus pandemic was one of her first obstacles.
“The lawyers will be working hard. The judges will be working hard,” Munyon said.
Seminole County’s County Civil Division marked the second-largest backlog in Central Florida with that division’s one judge currently handling 11,190 cases.
Following an order from the Florida Supreme Court, circuit courts throughout the state have developed Case Management Plans to help streamline the system to help reduce the backlogs.
In Orange County, plans are in place to help resolve smaller cases within 12 months.
Some retired judges throughout the state have been asked to return to work to process some of the civil cases.
Larger, more complex cases will proceed as normal, albeit delayed.
“You know, you could be talking about really serious matters for people, and they want resolution for that,” attorney Steven Kramer said.
Kramer is News 6′s Legal Analyst, and he said his law practice has encountered some of the delays caused by the backlogs.
“You know, the expression is justice delayed is justice denied, and there’s truth to that,” he said. “The reality is — it’s bad for individuals, it’s bad for families, it’s bad for businesses.”
Kramer said lawmakers in Tallahassee need to help.
“We need to do a better job of funding our justice system, because it affects business, because it affects people, because it affects freedom, because it affects money, because it affects everyday citizens and all aspects of their lives. COVID has just exposed a weakness,” he said.
Munyon said the Florida legislature approved three new permanent judges for the Ninth Judicial Circuit. Once appointed, they should begin sometime in October.