Tallahassee, Florida -- March 16, 2011
A proposed committee bill that will be heard Thursday splitting the Supreme Court into two courts also would move the newly cleft Supreme Court into the controversial new First District Court of Appeal Building in Tallahassee. House Speaker Dean Cannon, one of several lawmakers critical of the lavishness of the new appeals court, denied Wednesday that he was punishing the appeals court judges who pushed for the new building by seeking to move them out of their brand new building. “Absolutely not,” said Cannon, R-Winter Park. “It was convenient that the 1st DCA was built with two large courtrooms.” Cannon proposed splitting the Supreme Court into two courts, one for civil cases and one for criminal, but said he didn’t “claim credit” for also proposing the move into the new building. The bill (PCB CVJS 11-07) is on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting of the House Civil Justice Committee, chaired by Rep. Eric Eisnaugle. The committee wrote the bill. The sentence “The Supreme Court Building shall be at 2000 Drayton Drive, Tallahassee,” is tucked into the 140 page bill on page 14. Drayton Drive in the city’s suburban Southwood complex is the site of the new $48 million courthouse that the judges of the 1st DCA lobbied for and that then became controversial for being expensive and extravagant. Several lawmakers have criticized the court’s judges, particularly Judge Paul Hawkes, who pushed for the court and was involved in its design, for having the bigger and more elaborate courthouse built. The committee measure is silent on where the 1st DCA would sit, a detail Cannon said would have to be worked out in the legislative process. If it weren’t able to remain in its new building, an obvious option would be the current Supreme Court building across the street from the Capitol in downtown Tallahassee.