It’s time to re-establish a permanent home for the state appeals court that serves the Tampa Bay region.
It makes sense to put it in Tampa, the same as it made sense 30 years ago when the court’s operations began moving piece by piece up Interstate 4 from Lakeland to Tampa.
But with pork chop politics driving the decision on where to locate appeals courts, as they have since these courts were established in the 1950s, sense has taken a back seat in the debate so far.
Created as relief for an overburdened Supreme Court, and a force for progress during the desegregation era that followed the seminal Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, Florida’s District Courts of Appeal review decisions from lower tribunals through multi-judge panels. They aim to correct harmful errors and ensure consistency in the application of the law.
State lawmakers from Polk County want Lakeland to remain the home of the 2nd District Court of Appeal. Lakeland might have been the right place when the state first was divided into three appellate districts — based in Tallahassee, Lakeland and Miami.
Even then, though, it was political wrangling at decision time that snatched the headquarters from Orlando.
Today, the appeals courts have expanded to five districts, serving a state whose population has shifted as it has grown by five-fold. With a population of 108,054, and situated in the northeastern corner of a 13-county district that’s home to some 5.5 million people, all Lakeland has to commend it as a legal center now is inertia.
The good news is that there appears to…