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.