Future of Florida Judicial System on the Line Tuesday

While Florida has received heavy national attention due to its role as a swing state in the presidential election, an arguably more important decision will need to be made by Florida residents on Tuesday: whether to retain Florida Supreme Court justices Fred Lewis, Peggy Quince, and Barbara Pariente. Floridians will have to decide whether to keep custom by retaining the justices, or buck the trend and remove them from office. The importance of this vote cannot be taken for granted. Removing the justices would set a precedent that was meant to be avoided by the creation of merit retention: mixing law and politics.

Merit retention was implemented in Florida in the 1970s to end judicial corruption and political influence on justices. The idea behind merit retention was that justices would have to interpret the law without outside influence because Floridians would now have the option to remove them if they maintained their corruption. Justices are motivated to interpret only the constitution because the people now have the opportunity to remove them from office every six years. Since the inception of merit retention, there has yet to be a Supreme Court justice removed from office in this manner. That trend is now in danger as several right wing special interest groups have started a witch hunt to have the three justices up for retention removed.

These special interest groups, led by Restore Justice 2012, have tried to secure a right wing Florida Supreme Court by demonizing and defaming the justices up for retention, placing the integrity of the entire Florida judicial system at stake. Restore Justice 2012 has been aggressively pushing for the removal of the three justices so that three more right wing justices will replace them. What most Floridians don’t realize is that should the justices be removed, the governor of Florida is charged with appointing new justices to replace them. Not coincidentally, Florida currently has a right wing Tea Party governor, Rick Scott, who has also been pushing for the removal of the justices. By removing the justices, Governor Scott would have the ability to replace the justices with three of his choosing who would serve his political agenda.

Justice’s Quince, Pariente, and Lewis have come under fire not for their interpretation of the law but because their rulings have allegedly been “left-leaning.” Restore Justice 2012 created a scorecard giving the justices Fs across the board. Restore Justice 2012 fail to mention in their report card, however, how the justices various rulings fail to honor the Florida and United States constitutions. Instead, the report card hands out grades based on the ideological connotations of the justices’ decisions. What Restore Justice 2012, Governor Rick Scott, and the rest of the opponents of the justices fail to see, is the problem with voting based on ideology. Retention was not meant to be decided based on the political ideology of the justices on the ballot, but rather on whether they made rulings based on their interpretation of the constitution. Based on that criteria, there is no evidence whatsoever that suggests the justices have used anything but the constitution as a guide for making their decisions.

On Tuesday Floridians will cast a ballot not just for their next president, but also for the future of their judicial system. Should they choose to remove justices Quince, Pariente, and Lewis, they will effectively be turning back the clock to pre-retention times. Corruption may once again enter the legal system, as justices will make decisions based on the political climate for fear of a special interest group bombarding them with ads and pushing for their removal. Should Floridians spurn Restore Justice and its allies, they will show that judicial integrity and a better future are most important to them.

Supreme Court justices Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis, and Peggy Quince have received a number of endorsements including former Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer, former governor Charlie Crist, the Federalist Society, and the Florida bar. These endorsements come from across both sides of the political aisle, showing the importance of ending the witch-hunt and keeping the Florida Supreme Court intact.

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.

Florida Republicans Join the Merit Retention Fray

The fight to remove Florida state Supreme Court justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince, and Fred Lewis has officially entered the political arena. While the assault on the judicial branch had resembled a political campaign, the Florida Republican party has officially made it one. Last Friday, the executive committee of Florida’s Republican Party told their constituents that they should vote to reject the three justices up for retention, according to the Florida Current. While Lenny Curry, the Florida GOP chairman, denied the decision was political, it has become clear that politics is absolutely at the root of it.

The republicans have cited “judicial activism” as their reasoning for recommending voters to remove the justices. The committee’s evidence for judicial activism comes from a death penalty ruling that the court made, ordering a retrial for Joe Elton Nixon. Curry and his committee’s reasoning, however, lacks logic as the Florida Supreme Court ruled for Nixon’s retrial in 2003, meaning there has already been a chance for these justices to be removed. Additionally, after the United States Supreme Court sent Nixon’s case back to Florida for reconsideration, the Supreme Court changed their earlier ruling and held up his initial conviction and sentence. As the handling of the Nixon case clearly cannot be seen as judicial activism, which leaves only one answer as to why the Executive Committee recommended the removal of justices: politics.

Unlike Restore Justice 2012, which perhaps you could argue lack the intellectual capital to understand the point of the Supreme Court, the Republican Executive Committee are made up of people who should know better. While Curry denied this when asked, it has become painfully clear that the committee and other state republican officials would like to see the justices removed so that Governor Rick Scott will be able to appoint three new conservative justices. If Rick Scott were to be able to appoint new justices, it would alter the judicial landscape in Florida. Laws would be based on how conservative they are or aren’t, rather than whether a given law abides with the constitution.

“If the Republican Party wants to insert itself into the judiciary, it’s a colossal mistake,” stated Sandy D’Alemberte, a Tallahassee lawyer and former president of the American Bar Association. The removal of the Florida justices has the potential to forever alter the judicial system in Florida, which in turn, could set the stage for negative change throughout the country. While it’s hard to quantify the effects of the removal of the justices on the national level, it’s not hard to see what the result would be here in Florida: A shift towards corporations and the far right, where the governor already resides. Additionally, justices Quince, Lewis, and Pariente’s removal would turn the judicial branch into an arm of the executive branch. Justices will be forced to pander to the masses instead of impartially interpret the laws set forth in the Florida Constitution. When one takes into consideration all of the facts surrounding the possible removal of the three justices, it’s not hard to see why Floridians should vote to retain Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince, and Fred Lewis.

New Florida Poll Indicates Significant Support for Supreme Court Retention

A new Florida poll shows the Florida state Supreme Court getting an overwhelming vote of confidence from the Florida bar, according to the Herald. The poll asked bar members about their support of the three Supreme Court justices up for retention, as well as 15 appellate court judges. The poll showed the Supreme Court justices with an average approval of 90 percent while the 15 appellate judges received approval ratings ranging from 76 to 94 percent. The poll could be a useful campaign tool for the Supreme Court justices in their quest to retain their seats.

The poll is yet another indication that the witch hunt to throw out the justices Lewis, Pariente, and Quince is ridiculous. The fact that 7,857 lawyers participated in the poll gives the justices something significant to hang their hats on in the two months leading up to election day. The poll’s significance is derived from the fact that lawyers by nature are better evaluators of a Supreme Court’s performance than the average Florida resident. For the Florida Supreme Court, this as strong an endorsement as they could have hoped to land, as no attack ad can discredit the opinions of close to 8,000 lawyers. The poll also validates what pundits have been saying for months now: Restore Justice 2012’s efforts are being fueled by special interests rather than by poor performance by the justices.

The point of the Supreme Court is to interpret the law as set forth in the Constitution in order to maintain a system of checks and balances. Supreme Court justices are not supposed to make decisions based on being a liberal or conservative, but rather based on what the law says and their interpretation of it. Restore Justice 2012, however, feels differently; they are trying to undermine the Constitution and the very fabric America was built from by trying to remove justices Quince, Pariente, and Lewis. Restore Justice 2012 hopes to have Rick Scott appoint three new justices who will disregard the Constitution and make decisions based on ideology and corporate America.

The stakes are higher than most Floridians realize. Should Restore Justice 2012 and the Tea Party get their way, it will allow Governor Scott and the conservative legislature to do pretty much whatever they want. Governor Scott would be able to pass pretty much any law or amendment regardless of how radical it is because he will have three justices who he knows will support him. Should Restore Justice 2012 get their way, it will reshape the judicial system and allow Governor Scott to turn Florida into his personal playground. Voters should look at this poll and think long and hard before deciding to cast a vote against retention.

The bar poll makes it clear that the Supreme Court have not done anything worth being thrown out for. The poll targeted the most knowledgeable people in the state in regard to the judicial system, and they overwhelmingly agree that all three justices should be retained. Whether or not to retain the Supreme Court justices shouldn’t be an issue of politics, but rather an issue of values and integrity. Should the justices be removed, it will undermine the integrity of the Florida judicial system, as well as the values set forth in the state and national Constitutions. Checks and balances were created to regulate the political system. By allowing Rick Scott to appoint three new justices those regulations will be completely gone. Come November, Floridians need to stand up to the Governor and special interests and vote to retain justices Pariente, Quince, and Lewis, as well as the integrity of the Florida judicial system.

Florida Bar Presidents Slam Smear Campaign

23 former Florida Bar presidents recently signed a joint resolution supporting the retention of Supreme Court Justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince, and Fred Lewis. The former Bar presidents believe, like many other pundits, that the effort being made by Restore Justice 2012 to kick out the justices is fundamentally wrong. The joint resolution points out that this witch hunt politicizes justices, precisely what the state of Florida was trying to avoid when merit retention was created. The resolution also shows concern on behalf of the Florida Bar presidents that the public will vote not to retain the current Supreme Court justices without being properly informed.

The resolution discusses in detail the reason for merit retention and the reason this Supreme Court should stay intact. “We are concerned that the public has forgotten or is unaware of how the use of Judicial Nominating Commissions along with Merit Retention and Selection of appellate judges and non­ partisan elections has helped to give Florida one of the best judicial systems in the nation,” the resolution reads. Merit retention was not created to measure justice performance, it was created to prevent justice corruption. Restore Justice 2012 has disputed this and are campaigning purely against justice performance.

Part of the marketing plan of Restore Justice 2012 was the creation of a scorecard. The score card lists six groups: Homeowners’ Rights, Patients’ Rights, Education, Right To Vote, Criminal Justice, and Junk Lawsuits. The scorecard shows all three justices failing in every category. However the scorecard does not tell the whole story: that the justices’ jobs are to protect the constitution. Restore Justice 2012 gives the justices failing grades not because they violated the Florida State or United States Constitutions, but because they refused to conform to a right wing ideology. The push to throw out the justices is being made so that Governor Rick Scott can appoint three new right wing justices who will govern based on what the far right and special interests want.

The choice come November is a stark one for Floridians. Keep the justice system fair and honest, or allow new justices to be appointed who will disregard the constitution in favor of their own political interests. Should Justices Pariente, Quince, and Lewis be removed from office, a dangerous precedent will be set. The corruption in the Florida judicial system which has been dormant for the last 30+ years will be awoken as justices will have to pander to the whims of politicians in order to keep their jobs. In order to protect their rights, constitution, and justice system, Floridians need to stand up to the corporate money backing this smear campaign and retain their Supreme Court justices.

Merit Retention Turns Justice Into Politics

One of the largest pitfalls of merit retention is that it forces justices to become politicians. As a recent New York Times editorial points out, justices must now waste time actively campaigning and raising money. Without doing so, justices run the risk of sharing the same fate as Marsha Ternus, David Baker, and Michael Streit, the three Iowa Supreme Court justices who were removed from office during the 2010 elections. The Iowa justices faced a flurry of attack ads from Super-PACs run by conservative fringe groups. Without campaigning and raising money, justices run the risk of being overwhelmed on the air again this fall.

The most glaring problem with merit retention is that it changes the way Supreme Courts vote. One of the main ideas behind the Supreme Court was that they would be committed to justice and immune from politics. However, the threat of removal from office has forced Supreme Courts to pander to voters and campaign donors while ignoring real justice. The Center for American Progress recently conducted a study that showed Supreme Courts in Alabama, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, are significantly more likely to rule in favor of corporations and big business. Between 2000 and 2010 the study showed that these Supreme Courts ruled in favor of corporations 71% of the time, a stunningly high percentage. The correlation to merit retention is evident as spending against justices has been extremely high in all of these states.

Supreme Court Justices, especially in Florida, have been on high alert since the 2010 results in Iowa. Even though the attempts to remove the justices are completely without merit, right-wing funding has put them in real danger. The Florida justices have had the deck stacked against them more so than any other Supreme Court in the country. The Florida group has done nothing worthy of being removed aside from being “too liberal.” Nonetheless, they have been forced to actively hit the campaign trail as a result of well funded attacks and lack of support from even their own governor, Rick Scott.

The push for the removal of Supreme Court justices is pushing the American legal system into dangerously uncharted waters. Right-wing ideologues such as Karl Rove, Rick Scott, and the Koch brothers have seemingly hijacked the legal system. While justices should be worried about the law they have now been forced to worry about their jobs. Even if efforts to remove justices fail, the far right will have still accomplished something: forcing Supreme Courts everywhere to keep politics in mind when they vote. It’s becoming clearer every day that merit retention is a poisonous path that is threatening to undermine our entire legal system.

Florida Judge Dismisses Frivolous Lawsuit against Justices

A Florida Circuit Judge has dismissed a lawsuit attempting to remove Justices Peggy Quince, R. Fred Lewis, and Barbara Pariente from the November merit retention ballot, determining that the two Florida voters did not have “standing,” or the legal right to sue. The lawsuit was brought by the conservative Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF), which argued on behalf of two Floridians that the justices should be removed from the ballot for using state employees to notarize election paperwork. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) had previously concluded that it would not press charges on the same issue, saying that “the law does not concern itself with trifles.”

Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis said that the case was without merit because the two Florida citizens could not prove that they were personally harmed by the justices remaining on the ballot. Southeastern Legal Foundation lawyer Shannon Goessling immediately announced that they would appeal the case and take it as far as they could, including the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. Ironically, Goessling said that the justices “flout the law with impunity,” even though that is precisely what her Tea Party-backed organization has been accused of doing for years. Knowing that an appeal was likely imminent, Judge Lewis said, “We’ll let the district court of appeal decide whether I’m right or not.”

The justices’ attorneys argued four different claims against the suit. First, those bringing the lawsuit needed to prove harm that was not shared by all of Florida’s taxpayers generally. Second, the circuit court was not the correct venue to seek remedy, as these issues are meant to be decided by the Judicial Qualifications Commission and Florida Elections Commission. Third, the justices did not break any state laws, even if the lawsuit was allowed to continue and all facts of the case were agreed upon. Fourth, the lawyers argued that even if they were found guilty of violating state law, the proper legal punishment would not be to remove them from the November ballot. Although Judge Lewis dismissed the lawsuit on the fact that the voters did not have “standing,” the multitude of arguments against this lawsuit helps indicate how ludicrous this lawsuit truly was.

Although it never should have been brought in the first place, this frivolous lawsuit is illustrative of the contentious tactics that conservative special interests have taken in order to smear the names of three of Florida’s most respected legal figures. It has become clear that instead of educational campaigns or constructive discourse on merit retention, the Tea Party and similar groups are content with mudslinging and inflated hyperbole. Although the dismissal of this ridiculous lawsuit is important in restoring normalcy to Florida’s legal system, it would be surprising if Restore Justice 2012 and other hyper-partisan groups did not have other similar tricks up their sleeve. A November vote, and an end to this political firestorm, cannot come soon enough.

Rule of Law Reigns; Scott, Tea Party Unhappy

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) has concluded that three Florida Supreme Court Justices up for merit retention did not violate state law when they used a court employee to notarize campaign documents. State Attorney Willie Meggs wrote a letter to FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey informing him that no charges would be filed in the case, effectively ending the investigation ordered by Rep. Scott Plakon (R-Longwood) and referred by Governor Rick Scott. Scott and other Tea Party supporters were unhappy with the ruling though, as it meant they would be unable to replace Justices Lewis, Pariente, and Quince with their own harmonious nominations.

Meggs was resolute in his letter, saying “common sense should be used in deciding cases” and that “In this case, notarizing a signature is a minor act which was likely accomplished in less than a minute.” He continued further, saying that at most the violation by the judges was “minor…It is well established that the law does not concern itself with trifles.” According to the Orlando Sentinel, two lawyers for the justices also said that the judges had “cooperated fully with FDLE during the investigation, and were certain there was no impropriety nor violation of any law.”

Governor Scott responded sarcastically, saying “According to FDLE findings, it appears using state employees to complete and file campaign forms and other documents is ‘common practice.’ Now this case is before the courts where a determination will be made as to whether this ‘common practice’ is legal. Whatever the ruling, we will accept it and act accordingly.” This bitterness is illustrative of the stance Rick Scott has taken since the merit retention fight heated up, that of an instigator. Throughout this process, Scott has haphazardly defended partisan politics and taken the side of special interests against the rule of law.

The bipartisan group Defend Justice from Politics, mentioned in a previous post, responded with a scathing criticism of Governor Scott’s assessment of the investigation’s outcome. “Before the investigation was completed, he was on the record with his own determination of guilt – leveraging the mere existence of an investigation he choreographed to further smear the Justices with suggestions that they ‘ought to follow the law.’ Now he appears ready to reject the State Attorney’s conclusion that no law was violated, giving greater credence to a lawsuit filed by partisan ideological out-of-state lawyers funded by special interests. Governor Scott makes a habit of ignoring any outcomes that don’t play to his advantage. A fair and impartial judiciary is our last defense against politicians who will be satisfied with nothing short of absolute power.”

Although the investigation by the FDLE has been closed, the fight is not entirely over. A conservative Georgia-based organization, the Southeastern Legal Foundation, has file a lawsuit on behalf of two Florida residents claiming that without the notarization from court officials, the three judges would not be allowed on the November ballot. The lawsuit is seeking to force Secretary of State Ken Detzner from placing the three Justices on the ballot, effectively removing them from the bench and allowing Scott to nominate his own like-minded judges.

Aside from a very small minority of Tea Party-backed ideologues, much of Florida and the legal community have risen to the defense of the three justices up for merit retention. It is unmistakably clear that partisan beliefs and desires are fueling these inane attacks on the merits of these well-respected justices, and many groups have come forward to fight this campaign of misinformation and deafening rhetoric. Given Governor Scott’s acrimonious response to the Department of Law Enforcement’s decision not to file charges against the justices, it is obvious that the opponents of the bench have no respect for the rule of law. Although this fight will likely continue, the residents of Florida would be wise to ignore this background noise and make an educated decision. With full information and an understanding of the process, it is abundantly clear that Justices Lewis, Pariente, and Quince objectively deserve a “yes” on merit retention.