Attorneys for Gov. Rick Scott on Friday argued the state Supreme Court should not step into a legal dispute about whether Scott can appoint a Northeast Florida circuit judge or whether the judge should be elected by voters.
Scott administration attorneys filed a 30-page response that fired back against a request for the Supreme Court to block the appointment until underlying legal issues can be resolved. The case centers on whether Scott should be able to appoint a replacement for retiring 4th Judicial Circuit Judge Robert Foster.
Jacksonville attorney David Trotti filed a lawsuit arguing that the replacement should be elected in November. A Leon County circuit judge agreed and blocked the Scott administration from moving forward with an appointment process.
But the Scott administration immediately appealed, and the 1st District Court of Appeal kept in place a stay on the circuit judge’s ruling. That effectively allowed the appointment process to advance while the case continued.
Trotti, who tried to qualify to run for the seat in November, then asked the Supreme Court to step in and halt the appointment process.
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.
The Scott administration takes the position that the governor’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.
“Here, the undisputed facts establish that Judge Foster’s resignation was tendered and accepted by the governor before the election process commenced at the beginning of the candidate qualifying period,” Friday’s response said.
“The governor is therefore constitutionally authorized and obligated to fill the vacancy by appointment, and the secretary of state is prohibited from qualifying candidates for a judicial seat that will not be filled by election.”
The 4th Judicial Circuit is made up of Duval, Clay and Nassau counties.
Rick Scott, Robert Foster, David Trotti, 1st District Court of Appeal, Florida Supreme Court, judicial