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Governor appeals after judicial appointment ruling

Gov. Rick Scott’s administration quickly appealed after a Leon County circuit judge Wednesday blocked the appointment of a Northeast Florida judge and said the post should be filled in the November election.

Attorneys for Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner filed a notice of appeal after Circuit Judge Charles Dodson ruled in favor of Jacksonville attorney David Trotti, according to documents posted Thursday on the Leon County clerk of court’s website.

As is common, the notice of appeal did not detail the arguments the administration will make at the 1st District Court of Appeal. The dispute stems from the upcoming retirement of Robert Foster, a judge in the 4th Judicial Circuit, which is made up of Duval, Nassau and Clay counties. Foster was expected to leave office Jan. 7, 2019, which would be the end of his term, because of a mandatory retirement age.

But on April 2, Foster sent a letter to Scott making the retirement effective Dec. 31, four business days ahead of schedule.

In similar disputes in recent years, the Florida Department of State has taken the position that Scott’s acceptance of a judicial resignation before the start of an election-qualifying period creates a vacancy that will be filled by appointment, rather than election.

Trotti, who lost a similar case in 2014, sought to qualify to run for Foster’s seat but was denied. He argued in the lawsuit that the judicial seat should be filled by voters.

Dodson’s ruling Tuesday granted an injunction against Scott moving forward with the appointment process and said Trotti should be listed on the state Division of Elections website as qualifying to run for the judgeship.

Dodson wrote that the “creation of an artificial appointment” had occurred. “The right of our citizens to vote, as specifically provided for in the Constitution with regard to the election of our trial judges, is sacred,” Dodson wrote.

The News Service of Florida provides journalists, lobbyists, government officials and other civic leaders with comprehensive, objective information about the activities of state government year-round.

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