Federalist Society Becomes Latest Organization to Back Florida Supreme Court

The Federalist Society, a conservative law and public policy group, recently became the latest group to come out in opposition to the removal of Florida Supreme Court Justices Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis, and Peggy Quince. Despite a fellowship for law students meant to further conservative and libertarian principles, they have shot down the right wing push to have the justices removed on November 6, according to the Miami Herald. Their opposition to the removal of the Supreme Court justices comes as a surprise to many, as they are bucking the trend of other high profile figures with similar ideologies. The Federalist Society has published a report in which they contest that the Supreme Court has acted as “judicial activists.”

The Federalist Society recently commissioned Elizabeth Price Foley, a Florida International University professor, to review the nine cases being cited for “judicial activism” and the votes of the three justices up for retention. After reviewing the cases, Foley found no instances of activism in any of the nine decisions. “There are disagreements, true. But disagreements do not suggest that those with whom you disagree are unprincipled,” stated Foley. Due to the lack of evidence supporting activism, Foley believes that opponents of retention will have a difficult time making these accusations stick. Foley echoes a sentiment that In The Court has been saying for months: Justices can disagree over interpretations of the law, but as long as they are interpreting the law they are not failing in their responsibilities to the State of Florida.

The Federalist Society’s decision to buck the trend of their own party and ideology has come as a shock to many. The decision to break from groups like the Sunshine State News, who have demonized justices Lewis, Quince, and Pariente at every turn and recently called the Federalist Society “the nation’s premier fellowship of conservative and libertarian law students,” comes from the fact that they are a group of lawyers. While the Federalist Society may be a bedrock of conservative principles, they have chosen, like most legal groups, to back the justices on their interpretation of the law, not how conservative the court’s decisions are.

Despite the hard push from the right wing and the Florida Republican Committee to force out the justices, there have been many dissenters from the right side of the political aisle. Former Governor Charlie Christ and former State Republican party chair Jim Greer have already spoken out in favor of retention of the justices. Recently, the Naples News reported that Attorney General Pam Bondi refuses take a position on retention, despite the fact that her boss, Governor Rick Scott, has been one of the staunchest advocates of the justices’ removal. The bipartisan support for the justices makes it clear that this quest for removal truly has become a witch hunt.

While the choice should have been clear from the start, increasing support of retention from conservatives leaves little doubt that retention of Supreme Court justices Lewis, Pariente, and Quince is in the best interest of all Floridians.

Public Servants Speaking Out Against Right Wing Assault

According to the Miami Herald, three public servants recently spoke out against the Florida GOP’s attacks on the state Supreme Court. Nelson Cuba and Jeff McAdams, both high ranking officials of police unions in Florida, as well as James Preston, who is the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, have publicly condemned the Florida GOP for their endorsement of the removal of Supreme Court Justices Pariente, Quince, and Lewis. Perhaps the most interesting part of the outcry from law enforcement is that the three officials are Republicans. Due to their proximity to the law, the three public servants are in a better position than most to understand the issues that go into whether the Florida Supreme Court Justices deserve to be removed from office.

The fact that the three officials are Republicans is telling. Despite their party affiliation, and the “liberal” record of the justices, Cuban, McAdams, and Preston, all understand what the dangerous potential consequences of removing the justices are. “It’s politics, pure and simple…make the right decision based on the law, not on politicians coming after them because they don’t like what they’re saying,” stated Cuba. Additionally, Cuba along with the police and fire unions have blamed Governor Rick Scott for allegedly working with several conservative special interest groups–one of which being run by the right-wing Koch brothers–to mount an effective campaign to remove the justices.

The opinions of the conservative heads of the unions show how radicalism of the efforts to remove the justices. “This is an effort to hijack the courts that we think is unacceptable…if these justices were inept, or incompetent, that is for the citizens of Florida to decide, not a political party dragging up misleading information on a decade-old death penalty case,” Preston stated. The death penalty case being referenced by Preston was that of Joe Elton Nixon, a man whose death penalty sentence was initially overturned in 2004 by this Supreme Court. However, while Nixon’s sentence was temporarily overturned, the Supreme Court eventually restored the sentence. In addition, the Florida GOP had the opportunity to push for their removal in the last merit retention in 2006, but chose not to do so. Instead, the state Party waited eight years. Conveniently, the Florida GOP’s attack on the Supreme Court comes in the same year that the Koch’s right-wing Americans for Prosperity along with another conservative group, Restore Justice 2012, both launched private ad campaigns against the three justices.

The heads of the unions are just the latest people to come out against the Florida GOP executive committee and the special interest groups who are pounding the Supreme Court with negative ads. Two weeks ago, the Florida Bar released a scathing statement attacking the Florida GOP, Americans for Prosperity, and Restore Justice 2012. Last week, former Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer stated that the attacks on the Supreme Court by his own party were wrong and baseless. Although more and more people continue to speak out against this witch hunt, it hasn’t stopped Americans for Prosperity or Restore Justice 2012 from making large ad buys on TV to attack the Supreme Court. The choice has become a stark one: Should Floridians vote to remove justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince, and Fred Lewis, they will be voting for a politicized court and one that Rick Scott can use to pass an extremely conservative agenda. Should Floridians vote to retain the three justices, they will be voting for maintaining balance in the judiciary and keeping corruption out of the Supreme Court.

Former Florida Republican Chairman Greer Calls Merit Retention Fight Wrong

Jim Greer, the former Florida Republican chairman who is currently preparing to go to trial over stealing $200,000 from the party, has stated that the witch hunt on the state Supreme Court by republicans and special interest groups is wrong. Greer stated that the party has no right to get involved in the makeup of the Supreme Court or the judiciary as a whole. Greer believes that the current party is attempting to replace anyone whose political views don’t match up with the Republican leadership, including those who are upholding constitutional protections. Greer released his statement just mere days after current Florida GOP chairman stated that the Florida Republican Executive Committee were advising their constituents to vote to remove Supreme Court justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince, and Fred Lewis.

While the Florida GOP and proponents of removing the justices have denied that their desire to see the justice’s removed isn’t politically charged, their actions speak otherwise. Restore Justice 2012, a special interest group aggressively pushing for the removal of the justices, recently announced that they are launching a TV ad campaign to remove the justices—a tactic normally reserved for political campaigns. While Restore Justice has claimed that their goal is to educate Floridians on the voting records of the justices, they have yet to show why the justices should be removed.

Restore Justice 2012’s website, in and of itself, shows that this is a fight over politics: their signature piece of attack propaganda is their trademark judicial scorecard. You may ask what’s the problem with the scorecard? Well, it doesn’t list anywhere on it where the justices have failed to uphold the Florida and United States constitution. According to their scorecard, the grades are based on constitutional restraint and the level of judicial activism. In other words, what have the justices done for the right-wing lately? It stinks of politics and the desire to push the judicial system to the right.

The fight to remove the justice’s began in earnest in 2010 when the Florida Supreme Court removed three proposed constitutional amendments from the ballot. The amendments as shown on the ballot were deceptively worded, with the clear intent to confuse voters. Due to their wording, the justices removed them, setting off a firestorm with the right wing. Despite the fact that the justices went out of the way to protect Floridian’s rights, they have been persecuted and the victims of what amounts to a witch hunt. Should the right wing get its way, Governor Rick Scott will be able to nominate three new justices. In all likelihood, theses justices will fit Scott’s own Tea Party belief system, allowing Scott and the Florida legislature to craft as many deceitful amendments as they can. The battle over the Florida Supreme Court’s merit retention goes much deeper than politics in the judiciary, it’s about basic constitutional rights. Should Restore Justice 2012 and the Florida GOP get their way, the constitution will no longer serve the purpose it was designed for: to protect the people. The Governor and republicans in the legislature will be able to abuse the constitution at will, and no justice will be able to oppose them without fearing for their own job security.

When someone as conservative and radical as Jim Greer comes out vehemently opposed to the removal of justices, people should know there is a problem. “They’re abusing their power to stack the deck..It’s an unimaginative page straight from The Pelican Brief,” stated Greer. With personal freedoms and the future of the Florida constitution at stake, it’s of the utmost importance that every Floridian votes FOR retention of Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis, and Peggy Quince.