Tampa, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Chamber supports consolidating 2nd District Court of Appeals (2nd DCA) into one location, in Tampa Bay – specifically, within Hillsborough or Pinellas counties. The 2nd DCA signed a lease in Lakeland that, based on current estimates, should be able to support existing operations until 2021. Additionally, the existing lease in Tampa expires in 2023. This timeframe gives the 2nd DCA the ability to plan for the best long-term option, which should focus on achieving the highest operational efficiencies, the most prudent use of public resources, and the greatest accessibility for the clients and population that it serves.
There are multiple proposals for shovel-ready sites in Tampa and in St. Petersburg. The 2nd DCA can achieve the highest operational efficiencies, the most prudent use of public resources, and the greatest accessibility for the clients and population that it serves. The Court should act upon the empirical demographic data indicating, and confirming, the broader regional population shift in West Central Florida.
A study executed by Savills Studley Occupier Services & National Center for State Courts, and commissioned by the Florida Legislature, indicated that, “Since the authorization of the Tampa branch in 1980, the operations of the 2nd DCA have significantly shifted from Lakeland to Tampa. Currently, 13 of the 16 judges work in Tampa full time, with the remaining three judges splitting their time between the Lakeland and Tampa facilities. The staff that supports the 13 Tampa judges also work full time in Tampa. As of August 2016, there were 104 2nd DCA employees. Of that total, approximately 61% of total employees live in Hillsborough and Pinellas County versus approximately 34% of total employees living in Polk County.” Additionally, the judges and their support staff, plus the majority of central staff employees, are located primarily in Tampa.
It is clear – the best way forward is to sell the Lakeland Courthouse, consolidate operations into one location, and allow the data from the commissioned study to guide the ultimate location.