November 1, 2003 Gary Blankenship Senior Editor Regular News Study to look at the courts’ funding needs Study to look at the courts’ funding needs Senior EditorWith a critical legislative session looming on court funding, the Bar Board of Governors has agreed to partially underwrite an independent study on court monetary needs.The board, at its October 3 meeting, approved recommendations from the Budget and Legislation committees to appropriate $25,000 to help fund a $100,000 project by TaxWatch, a government watchdog.Executive Director John F. Harkness, Jr., said TaxWatch brings two valuable attributes: strong ties to the business community and a reputation for independence in reviewing government operations.Budget Committee Chair Jesse Diner and Bar President Miles McGrane emphasized that TaxWatch will be completely free to reach whatever conclusions it wants about court finances. The Bar, they said, is offering its support because it is confident TaxWatch research will show the importance of adequately funding the courts.The study comes as the legislature approaches a July 1 deadline to take over more funding from the counties of the trial courts, in accordance with a 1998 constitutional amendment approved by the voters. Last year lawmakers sketched out a framework for transferring the funding that has generally met with approval of judges and court officials. But in next year’s spring Regular Session, lawmakers will decide how much money will be provided.“I think the legislature doesn’t want to hear about the problems the counties are going to have and doesn’t want to hear the judges,” Diner said. “But they do want to hear about the problems the business community would have.”He added that business leaders are beginning to realize the difficulties they could encounter from an underfunded judiciary, having seen business litigation face long delays in other states where judicial budgets have been cut.McGrane said he has been meeting with both legislative and business leaders since he became president-elect and that both groups are becoming aware of the potential complications.“They’re beginning to understand that the courts don’t belong to the lawyers, they belong to the people of Florida,” McGrane said.He said the Bar would be reaching out to other groups to help pay for the study, including the Florida chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates, the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers, and the Bar’s Young Lawyers Division.McGrane noted he has met with former Rep. Art Simon, now in charge of government relations for AIF, and the two organizations are seeking common ground.“At this point, our relationship is sort of tentative; we’re just sort of getting to know each other,” he said.The proposal got strong support from board members. Legislation Committee Chair Alan Bookman noted that the panel supported the undertaking.“I can’t think of anything more important for this board to be concerned with than adequate funding of our judiciary,” board member Dude Phelan said. “If this isn’t something we don’t dedicate our fullest resources to, then we don’t deserve the seats we own.”The board unanimously approved the expenditure. The study, once the rest of the financing is arranged, is expected to be done by the end of the year.On a related note, Bookman said that Sens. Rod Smith, D-Gainesville, and Alex Villalobos, R-Miami, and Rep. Holly Benson, R-Pensacola, will be at the board’s December meeting. They will be recognized for their work earlier this year on court funding issues.
ARMED police were called to the final day of Surrey versus Middlesex in the County Championship after a crossbow bolt was fired onto the field, abandoning play on the afternoon of the fourth day.Police believe the 12-inch long metal-tipped bolt travelled around 800 metres before coming to ground about ten yards from the pitch. The incident took place at 16.20hrs, during the 69th over of Middlesex’s second innings.The players alerted the umpires, Michael Gough and Paul Baldwin, who acted quickly to take the players off the field – a number of them sprinting towards the changing room.Fifteen minutes later, the Metropolitan police had been made aware of the incident, at which point officers, including firearm officers, made their way to the Kia Oval.It was at this point that an announcement was made across the PA system at the ground for spectators and those in the open to “find cover”. Another announcement followed, urging people to move inside.A full search of the ground was carried out by police and around 30 security staff. The game was abandoned at 17:05hrs by which time around 1000 spectators had been informed that they could leave.The Metropolitan Police believe the bolt was fired from outside the ground, though they are unsure as to whether the bolt was fired deliberately or whether it was targeted at The Oval. They have, at this stage, stated that the incident is not being treated as terrorism-related.Richard Gould, Surrey’s chief executive, speaking after play was officially called off, said: “It had a pointed end and stuck in the turf when it crossed the outfield and landed.“We are investigating reports that there was a noise on the roof of the OCS Stand but we haven’t been able to get up there to investigate whether it was the projectile ricocheting off the roof or a separate projectile. It is the sort of thing that could easily have been fired some distance from outside the ground if it came from a crossbow. It could very easily have killed someone.“We may never find out if it was a deliberate act, but in these heightened times these sorts of acts are wholly irresponsible.“People should not feel threatened in this way. If it is more than mischief-making then we need to find the perpetrators. We will review our security arrangements but threats can be so wide-ranging.“There is probably no way of securing against this type of incident if it was fired from outside. We always try and provide the safest type of environment but it can be very difficult to stop this kind of act.”Surrey captain Gareth Batty, who was fielding 25 yards away from where the arrow landed, said: “It was a pretty tasty arrow with a proper metal end. I did archery as a kid and that was not a normal archery arrow. The umpires dealt with it very well. There were no questions asked – we went off very quickly.“Someone saw it in flight, there was a noise when it landed but it happened so quickly. It is a deadly weapon for sure. If it had hit someone it would have caused some serious damage. It just shows the world we live in.