Florida Supreme Court Justices Kick Off Their First Campaign

Three members of the Florida state Supreme Court have begun to hit the campaign trail to try and solidify their standing for November’s election. Justice Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince, and Fred Lewis are all on the November voting ballot for merit retention. The campaigning is unheard of by a state Supreme Court, almost as unheard of as the circumstances surrounding the November ballot. While there has never been a Florida justice removed from the Supreme Court before, that could very well change this year.

The three Florida justices up for merit retention have unfortunately found themselves facing a situation unlike anything that’s ever been seen in Florida before: A swath of special interest groups are actively mounting an advertising campaign to have the three justices removed. In light of this opposition, the Florida Supreme Court justices have begun to campaign around Florida. Their goal is to educate the electorate about what merit retention is and about their own records. The justices are trying to inform people on the importance of excluding politics from the Supreme Court. The justices are meeting with everyone ranging from regular residents to newspaper outlets.

The position the justices have been put in is a precarious one. In order to keep their jobs, they are being forced to tread a fine line between actively campaigning and undermining the Florida judicial system. Of course, the upheaval of the legal system could be completely avoided if the justices were left to do their job. Unfortunately a technicality, merit retention, has allowed special interest groups to pour money into races against judges. These special interest groups are trying to force the justices into voting how the people want, rather than voting based on the constitution they were sworn to uphold.

Ironically, the merit system was created to remove politics from the Supreme Court. Lawmakers believed that justices would be more likely to be impartial if they didn’t have to worry about running against another candidate. Until the last couple of years, the system has operated as smoothly as it was planned, until special interests and super PACs found a way to get the three Iowa Supreme Court justices in 2010. What’s at stake this November is more than just the positions of three justices, it’s also the role of the legal system, constitution, and politics in Florida. Should Florida’s Supreme Court members be removed a dangerous precedent will be set as justices may start pandering to special interests and lobbyists just to keep their jobs.

As November gets closer you can expect to see much more of your Supreme Court justices than you ever have before. They will in all likelihood stay in the public eye as they try to fight off smear campaigns, right wing special interest groups pouring ungodly sums of money into the race, and even their own governor. For the first time the Florida Supreme Court is being forced to actively campaign. The only way to stop this witch hunt and maintain the strength of the legal system is to make sure that all three justices are retained.

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