Jorge Labarga names three to Constitution Revision Commission - Florida Politics

Jorge Labarga names three to Constitution Revision Commission

Jorge Labarga

Former Florida Bar president Hank Coxe, former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner and former federal prosecutor Roberto Martinez are Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga‘s three picks to the Constitution Revision Commission.

Labarga announced his choices Monday during a press conference in the courthouse’s rotunda in Tallahassee.

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They now are the first names known to be on the panel, which meets every 20 years to review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document.

Labarga said he considered legal and political experience, as well as geographical and other diversity, in making his selections. As chief justice, he get three picks. All are lawyers.

“For there being only three appointments, I think it’s a well-rounded set … (of) extremely qualified people who care about our state,” Labarga told reporters.

Coxe, a Jacksonville attorney admitted to the bar in 1973, also served on the Judicial Qualifications Commission, which looks into accusations of judicial misconduct. He also has contributed to a variety of Democratic and Republican candidates over the years, campaign finance records show.

Joyner, a Tampa Democrat, left the Legislature last year after 16 years in the House and Senate, rising to Senate Democratic Leader. As a college student at Florida A&M University, she was arrested while picketing outside the whites-only Florida Theater in Tallahassee.

Martinez served briefly as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida in Miami under President George H.W. Bush in 1992-93. He also has served on state panels, including the state Board of Education.

When asked his priorities, Labarga said he hoped the commission would preserve the state’s “independent judiciary,” but declined to mention any specifics.

“The relationship between the judiciary and the other two branches has not always been smooth but this is nothing new,” he said. “And we will continue to have disagreements.”

He also said some had asked him to nominate himself to the commission, as former Chief Justice Gerald Kogan did in 1997-98.

“I prefer to stay here and call balls and strikes as I see the law and the facts and nothing else,” he said.

The commission is supposed to hold its first meeting in the 30-day period before the start of the 2017 Legislative Session on March 7.

Representatives for Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who each get nine selections, have not said when the leaders will announce their decisions.

As governor, Rick Scott will choose 15 of the 37 commissioners, and he also selects its chairperson. Republican Pam Bondi is automatically a member as Attorney General.

The commission has met twice before, in 1977-78 and 1997-98, but this will be the first to be selected by a majority of Republicans, virtually ensuring it will propose more conservative changes to the state’s governing document than previous panels.

But any changes the commission proposes would be in the form of constitutional amendments, which would have to be approved by 60 percent of voters on a statewide ballot.

Jim Rosica covers state government from Tallahassee for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.
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