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The post below was published on Monday, January 24th, 2011 at 8:31 AM.

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First District, Welcome Home

This post is late in coming, but let me offer a belated welcome home to the First District Court of Appeal. The court moved into its new Tallahassee home in late December and began hearing oral arguments there in early January.

Florida First District Court of Appeal

First District Court of Appeal

To say that the First District has made some headlines in the last several months would be a considerable understatement. From the start, I chose not to discuss the topic here, though it would have been a natural fit. My largest concern was that too many details seemed unclear, and as the story unfolded during an election cycle, the phrase “moving target” kept coming to mind. I did not have the time to do the personal legwork I would have liked to do to add what I thought was important perspective.

This past week, I broached the subject while giving a CLE presentation for the Appellate Practice Section on the appellate-related events of 2010. Having done that, and having caught up on my First District posts, the time seems right to discuss the matter here, such as it still bears being addressed.

It does, a little. For instance, last week, Chief Justice Canady issued this administrative order, which provides that all future district court construction projects will be reviewed and overseen by the supreme court through the Office of the State Courts Administrator. Also, yesterday’s St. Pete Times offered this column casting blame in all directions.

As an appellate specialist who appreciates a number of the challenges presented by our appellate courts’ facilities, I am glad to see the First District operating in a modern building that should support the district through this century. I am certainly not alone in wishing that the transition had been a less controversial affair.

I also hope that positive lessons will become the focus as future construction for the judiciary is examined, as it inevitably will. There can be no doubt that facility- and staffing-related troubles plague some of Florida’s other appellate courts, and recent events involving the First District do not change that fact.

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