Circuit Judge Salaries in Florida

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One study concluded that Florida's judges need a $16,000 raise and better benefits.
One study concluded that Florida's judges need a $16,000 raise and better benefits. (Image: Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

At the start of 2011, Florida's 599 Circuit Judges made $142,178 a year. That's been the salary since 2009, when the state imposed a 3.8 percent pay cut; the judges' last raise was in 2005. The current salary is roughly 40 times what the state paid the judges back in 1868, when Florida first created the position.

Duties

Circuit courts take appeals from county courts and also hear whatever cases Florida law doesn't assign to the county level: juvenile cases, felony cases, tax and probate cases, and civil disputes involving amounts larger than $15,000. The scope of their responsibilities makes circuit judges the highest level of trial judge and the lowest level of appellate judge in the state system. Florida has 20 judicial circuits, with the number of judges per circuit ranging from four to 80.

Qualifications

If you've been a member of the Florida bar for five years, you meet the qualifications to become a circuit court judge. To win the job, you have to choose a judicial circuit, run in a nonpartisan electoral race and win; six years later, you'll have to run for re-election or step down. All voters within the circuit court district can participate in the election. The circuit and county judges in your circuit will choose a chief justice from among their ranks to handle administrative duties.

Beginnings

Florida's 1868 Constitution created seven circuit districts and gave the governor the power to appoint the circuit judges to their eight-year terms. Because Florida was a rural state with widely separated communities, circuit judges had to hold court in each county in their district at least twice a year; the revised constitution of 1968 dropped this requirement. Circuit judge didn't become an elected position in Florida until a 1957 constitutional amendment made it so.

Salary History

The 1868 constitution gave judges a $3,500 annual salary. That went down to $2,500 in 1885, but a 1902 constitutional amendment raised judges' pay to $2,750. In 1914, another amendment gave the legislature the power to set the salaries. In 1927, the Legislature set the salary at $7,500; by 2009, before the pay cut, a circuit judge earned $145,080. The Florida Chamber of Commerce has stated that judges need a $16,000 raise and better retirement benefits for the state to attract capable attorneys to the post.

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