Exploring the idea of a statewide roster of trial judges qualified to try capital cases. Already, it is required that circuit judges presiding over death cases go through a training course. The court asked the Morris Committee, chaired by Eighth Circuit Judge Stan Morris, to consider the idea and make recommendation by October 1. August 1, 2000 Jan Pudlow Associate Editor Regular News Justice Anstead concurred in result only. Chief Justice Charles Wells concurred and wrote a separate opinion, joined by Justices Major Harding and Barbara Pariente, in which he stressed that effective management of cases will be key to improving the capital appeals process. “We have a rule of judicial administration requiring the chief judges to report to this court each quarter concerning each case which is pending in their circuits in postconviction. The intent of this rule is that these cases are to be a focus on the trial court dockets and progressed each quarter,” Wells wrote. “To be certain that this occurs, we expect the reports to be filed with this court timely and to be complete. However, progressing the case requires that the state attorneys and Attorney General do all that can be reasonably done to have public records produced by various agencies that possess relevant documents and to bring matters which need to be heard to the attention of the trial judges.” Wells promised that the high court will do a better job of managing cases, too. “We are likewise taking active steps in this court to have records timely perfected so that these cases are appropriately progressed while in this court,” he wrote. The Supreme Court “must develop procedures to govern postconviction proceedings once a death warrant has been signed.. . . Further consideration likewise is warranted for a number of serious concerns raised as to the appropriateness of the time limits contained in the proposed rules.” In addition to those issues which must be addressed before adopting new rules, the Supreme Court wants to explore other matters “we feel are vitally important to the streamlining and betterment of the capital postconviction process.” They include: The high court said it must address “critical issues regarding what constitutes an adequate postconviction motion under Rule 3.851.. . . More consideration and revision of the requirements of an adequate motion is required.” Court calls for more capital appeals study “We must give adequate consideration to the Solicitor General’s suggestion that this court has authority to adopt a rule of discovery requiring disclosure of records prior to the conviction and sentence of death becoming final,” the justices wrote. The court had feared that current exemptions to Chapter 119 public records laws — that do not end until conviction and sentence become final after direct appeal — would preclude collateral counsel from investigating postconviction claims immediately upon appointment, as the new dual-track streamlined appeals process required. “Another issue of utmost concern is how to ensure the availability of qualified postconviction counsel to handle the increased caseloads that likely will result from the adoption of a dual-track system,” the justices wrote. “This concern appears to be directly impacted by statutes governing the compensation of and scope of representation by registry counsel (those private attorneys on a statewide list who are willing to handle capital appeals).” Court calls for more capital appeals study Associate Editor In the wake of a barrage of criticism, suggestions and confusion surrounding new rules for capital appeals, the Florida Supreme Court has called a time out, saying further study is required. After considering written comments and oral arguments from a total of 16 interested parties, the high court “has determined that it must postpone adoption of new rules governing capital postconviction proceedings until it can thoroughly consider a number of critical issues and concerns,” the justices concurred in a July 14 opinion. Current rules remain in effect until the Supreme Court adopts new ones. While “serious obstacles” remain, the justices said one important step should be taken immediately. They adopted a new rule of judicial administration requiring the chief judge of each circuit to enter an administrative order detailing a plan to “expedite the preparation of transcripts in all cases in which the death penalty is sought and in capital postconviction proceedings.” The deadline for those circuit-wide plans is January 1, 2001. Previously, the justices had proposed a rule to require state attorneys to pay for real-time court reporting in every death case. But in their latest opinion, the justices acknowledged that technology is currently not available in all circuits, and other measures — “such as the use of text editors or alternating court reporters and the management of court reporter workloads — may be necessary to expedite the preparation and finalization of transcripts.” In their opinion, the justices agreed, it should be the circuit court’s responsibility, rather that the duty of state attorneys, to ensure such efficiency measures are put into action. But there’s no way, the justices agreed, to put into action proposed rule changes to speed up capital appeals until a long list of problems are solved: Considering extending recently adopted minimum standards for conflict counsel in capital cases to public defenders, collateral counsel and private counsel who handle capital cases.