The Southern District of Florida’s clerk of court, Steven Larimore, is setting the bar for the rest of the country.
Larimore received the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts’ 2017 Director’s Award for Excellence in Court Administration this month for running one of the most productive courts in the country while reducing building space for an annual savings of $1.4 million.
“He has demonstrated outstanding leadership skills that have allowed him to effectively govern one of the nation’s most demanding trial courts,” U.S. District Chief Judge K. Michael Moore wrote in support of Larimore’s nomination.
The district shaved off 47,000 square feet in response to an Administrative Office five-year initiative to reduce court space in each circuit by 3 percent before September 2018. The goal is to save taxpayer money by using space — and technology — more efficiently.
“Under the leadership of former Chief Judge [Federico] Moreno and Chief Judge Moore, we’ve taken the responsibility to be good stewards of public dollars very seriously,” Larimore said. “We’ve just tried to look very closely at what our space needs are.”
The district’s first major rent-saving project, approved in 2013, was for the bankruptcy court to relinquish 33,000 square feet of space in downtown Miami’s Claude Pepper Federal Building and take over three courtrooms and chambers in the nearby C. Clyde Atkins U.S. Courthouse.
The bankruptcy clerk’s office also moved, with key support from then-Chief Bankruptcy Judge Paul Hyman, then-Bankruptcy Clerk Kathy Gould-Feldman and current Bankruptcy Clerk Joe Falzone. U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas, who leads the district’s space and facilities committee, also got the ball rolling.
Soon afterward, the district decided to give up a former jury assembly room in Miami’s James Lawrence King Federal Justice Building and a former appeals space in the Atkins courthouse, giving the space back to the General Services Administration. The same process was approved for one courtroom in the Key West federal courthouse.
More projects are now underway that will rededicate space previously used for paper records, Larimore said. Now that most of the federal courts’ records are electronic, storage rooms are being reconstructed as judges’ chambers, one in the Fort Lauderdale courthouse and one in the West Palm Beach courthouse.
Fort Lauderdale is also one of the Administrative Office’s top three priority sites for a new federal courthouse. The project will cost $190 million, the office estimated in September. A site has not been acquired.
“From the point of funding approval, I would say it’s anywhere from four to seven years to completion,” Larimore said. “But you know, funding is [on] a year-to-year basis. So it just depends on how many courthouses are funded. We certainly are hoping that Fort Lauderdale will be funded in the near future.”
The Southern District of Florida is consistently ranked as one of the most efficient federal courts in the country, despite its high caseload. The district has seven courthouses, 18 authorized judgeships and five vacancies.
Larimore, who has been clerk for 10 years, declines to take credit for the court’s efficiency, saying he’s lucky to work with excellent judges, talented managers and a dedicated staff.
“Our clerk’s office, right after I became clerk, adopted a motto fashioned after one of Vince Lombardi’s favorite sayings, which is ‘Chase perfection, catch excellence,’” he said. “We are just continuing on that chase, trying to be the best public servants we can.”