CLEARWATER, Fla. - In a system already overwhelmed, imagine criminal cases going untried and divorce and child custody cases staying unresolved.
Florida judges say we won't have to imagine that for long.
"It's a crisis for the citizens of this state," said Sixth Circuit Chief Judge Thomas McGrady.
A budget shortfall of $70 million is threatening to shut down the state's court system
, and potentially force layoffs as well. A sharp decrease in foreclosure filings is the reason for the crisis. The court system gets much of the money for its operating budget from foreclosure filing fees.
If the state doesn't step in to help with an emergency loan, Florida judges say they will have to take drastic measures. That includes shutting courtrooms down for 14 days over the next two months, including 4 days in April and 10 in May.
A series of other cuts in court services are also being considered, and some suggest high-profile cases might have to be delayed or suspended.
Layoffs may also be required if the state doesn't step in. At least 18 Pasco-Pinellas court employees could be let go by this Friday. Dozens of other court employees across the state could face the same fate.
State lawmakers have already approved a $50 million emergency loan to keep the courts running through July. Governor Rick Scott is now considering the loan, and has until Friday to approve it.