The majority party in control of the Florida Legislature is attempting to take control of the state’s Supreme Court to guarantee that once a conservative law is passed it is guaranteed to stay on the books with court approval.
The plan is that the Florida Supreme Court would rule on the constitutionality of the law, based on conservative political philosophy not necessarily on the basis of law.
Trying to turn the judicial into a politically controlled branch of government is way beyond acceptable politics — for Republicans or Democrats. Many elected conservatives frequently allude to the idea that America should return to the original U.S. Constitution as ratified in 1789. I guess they forgot the original constitution clearly defined the functions of the court as well and the separation of powers of the three branches of government.
Last year, Florida’s Speaker of the House, Dean Cannon, was unhappy with the way three liberal members of the state’s Supreme Court — Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince — voted on several issues favored by the legislature. As a result, the speaker attempted to place on the November ballot a Constitutional amendment that would increase the court by three judges whose voting would dilute the votes of the three liberals.
If approved by the voters our governor would then be able to fill the new chairs and the conservatives would have control of the court. Fortunately, his attempt failed to garner sufficient votes to get on this November’s ballot. Attempt No. 1 failed.
Attempt No. 2: Three conservative members of the legislature attempted to have the same three liberal judges removed from the court by accusing them of breaking the law and having a court clerk notarize documents required to have their names placed for a retention vote on the November ballot.
Their crime was having a state employee on government time during a break of an important trial, perform a non-government function. Fortunately, the attempt was abandoned once it was pointed out that several conservative justices did the same thing on an earlier date. Attempt No. 2 to remove the three justices failed.
Attempt No. 3: Now, the Florida Republican Party, by unanimous vote of its executive committee, is accusing the same three justices’ earlier ruling in 2003 on a case involving overturning a death sentence because of improper legal representation as a subterfuge to remove them from the court and again have the three vacancies filled by the governor with conservative justices.
The Republican Party executive board confirmed that they will campaign extensively to have voters cast a “no confidence” vote, which if successful will remove them from office. The Miami Herald pointed out in a recent article that no sitting Florida Supreme Court justice has ever lost a retention election.
A number of influential Republican lawyers have opposed the party’s move.
Raul Cantero, a former justice, stated, “My strong feeling is, if we start turning the merit retention process into a political vehicle, then we are turning the judiciary into another political branch of government, which the Founding Fathers of our country specifically intended to avoid.”
Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, former president of the Florida Bar, is quoted saying, “The announcement that the Republican Party is engaged in this effort would shock those wonderful Republican statesman who helped create the merit selection and merit retention process. Surely we do not want to go back to the broken past.”
It certainly would appear we are heading in that direction.
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