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Florida Counties Challenge State's Bills for Juvenile Detention

April 20, 2012 09:16:18 am

An administrative law judge Monday will hear arguments in part of a wide-ranging dispute about whether Florida is forcing counties to pick up too much of the cost of juvenile detention, reports the News Service of Florida. Okaloosa and Nassau counties are challenging the way the Department of Juvenile Justice is carrying out a law that requires counties to pay detention costs before court "disposition" of juveniles' cases. The challenge is part of a string of related legal disputes involving at least 10 counties --- and deals with issues that the Florida Association of Counties says have long been a priority for its members.

Gregory Stewart, an attorney for Okaloosa and Nassau counties, said the primary problem is that the "system is rigged to pass costs to the counties." But the Department of Juvenile Justice said in legal documents that the rules are a valid way to determine how detention costs will be shared by the state and counties. The issue, which stems from a 2004 law, involves complicated questions about how much of the detention tab counties should pay. Okaloosa County, for example, is disputing nearly $1.1 million in costs from the 2009-10 fiscal year, while Nassau takes issue with about $97,000. Other counties involved in pending cases include Bay, Broward, Hernando, Lee, Miami-Dade, Orange, Pinellas and Seminole.

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