Keep Politics Out of Our Judicial System

Welcome to In The Court, a blog aimed at informing the public about a recent push by politicians and lobbyists to vote “no” on the retention of Florida’s Supreme Court Justices.

Activists are targeting Florida’s Court system, with a large push from Tea party activist Jessie Phillips. He has launched a website titled “Restore Justice 2012” to spearhead a campaign to “educate” voters and ultimately unseat Supreme Court Justices Peggy Quince, Barbara Pariente, and Fred Lewis during a retention vote in November. Just like similar activist groups, Phillips accuses the justices of “judicial activism” – one of the “greatest threats to freedom that exists in our country and state.” He is alleging that they are “playing partisan politics”, “legislating from the bench” and denying citizens “proper protection under the law.”

Don’t be fooled by these groups’ “patriotic” names or lofty “ambitions.”

Carefully examine the motives behind these campaigns. Florida, unlike other states, does not have competitive Supreme Court Justice elections. The justices are appointed by the governor, and every six years, face a merit retention vote, in which voters decide whether to keep them on the bench. If Florida voters choose, by a majority, not to retain a justice, Section 11 states the following:

“Whenever a vacancy occurs in a judicial office to which election for retention applies, the governor shall fill the vacancy by appointing for a term ending on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January of the year following the next general election occurring at least one year after the date of appointment, one of not fewer than three persons nor more than six persons nominated by the appropriate judicial nominating commission.”

These activists want the current justices defeated by votes to allow for the appointment of the “right” people. They are not looking to unseat justices who are incompetent, violated the law, or failed to uphold the meaning or intent of a legal precedent. They are pushing for people to vote them off simply because they disagree with the decisions made by the court and the justices. Now judges from across the country are faced with the potential reality that one decision will result in a million-dollar campaign from well-funded interest groups trying to unseat them.

Since the retention system in Florida was created nearly four decades ago, not a single justice has been voted off. Activists are putting a spin on this fact, calling out the one million voters who left the judicial portion of the ballot blank in 2010 to “take a stand for freedom,” “serve” their country, and “return accountability and independence” to Florida’s judicial system.

The activism is particularly worrisome, as approximately two years ago in Iowa, three State Supreme Court Justices, who delivered a difficult and controversial ruling, were voted off the bench following a nearly $1 million campaign to unseat them. In the past ten years, not a single dollar had been spent on Iowa’s high court elections.

It’s time to keep politics out of our judicial system. Our Constitution guarantees us an independent judiciary. Hopefully voters will see it this way too.

26
Mar 2012
AUTHOR TerraFirma
CATEGORY

In the News

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