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Broward Chief Circuit Judge Victor Tobin told judges and staff today that courts face widespread furloughs and reduced operations as early as next week after Gov. Rick Scott failed to loan the courts more money to make up for a revenue shortfall. Tobin said chief judges met Monday in Tallahassee with Florida Chief Justice Charles Canady, who told the judges that Scott has been slow to approve additional funding to ensure courts remain open and that planning should begin for how the courts will deal with the funding crisis. Tobin said in an interview that money is running out from a previous loan the governor approved and that he would know by this weekend if Broward court employees would be furloughed next week. Tobin said a four- to seven-day furlough is likely in April depending on whether judges can be included. In May a 10- to 23-day furlough is anticipated. And what happens in June remains a question. Tobin held several mid-day meetings with judges, judicial assistants, magistrates and other court employees to inform them about the potential furloughs and the funding crisis facing the state justice system. The courts faced a $72.3 million shortfall in the current fiscal year caused by a drop in foreclosure filing fees. Scott last month gave state courts a $14 million lifeline. Jerry McDaniel, the governor’s Office of Policy and Budget director, said at the time that the trust fund loan and transfer should keep courts operating until Scott better understands the factors in play, attempts to minimize the deficit and recommendations for avoiding a recurrence. Canady sent a plea for help to Scott and offered suggestions for filling the budget holes with other state funds to cover court operations through the end of the fiscal year June 30. The shortfall is the product of over-optimistic projections of foreclosure filing fees before lenders imposed moratoriums to review so-called “robo-signing” scandals and allegations of erroneous court filings. Adolfo Pesquera can be reached at (954) 468-2616.

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