Florida Supreme Court Archives - Page 2 of 59 - Florida Politics

Rick Scott seeks another shot at screening Supreme Court nominees

Gov. Rick Scott has asked the Florida Supreme Court to reconsider allowing him to begin screening replacements for three of its justices, arguing the court may have “misapprehended” his arguments that he holds that authority.

The court issued an order Oct. 15 declaring that only the next Governor has the authority to replace Justices R. Fred LewisPeggy A. Quince, and Barbara Pariente, who face mandatory age-related retirement at midnight between Jan. 7 and Jan. 8, as Scott’s term ends.

“On its face, the order suggests that the court may have overlooked or misapprehended the relief sought by the petitioners in this proceeding,” Scott argues in a motion filed Tuesday evening by his general counsel, Daniel Nordby.

“The petition … filed in this case did not ask this court to determine the scope of the gubernatorial appointment power. Instead, the petition is directed entirely to the nomination process,” it says.

“As a result, the parties’ briefs in this case did not address the scope of the appointment power. And the Governor had no occasion, in this case, to present legal argument on the significant and disputed constitutional question that was the subject of previous litigation between the parties.”

Scott wants the court to rehear the case to clarify that point.

The three justices at issue are members of the court’s more liberal wing, so their retirements open an opportunity to reshape the court — depending on whether a Republican or Democrat next occupies the Governor’s Mansion.

Scott had asked the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission to begin screening applicants and posited the possibility of huddling with his successor to choose among candidates.

That’s what the late Gov. Lawton Chiles (a Democrat) and former Gov. Jeb Bush (GOP) did when this issue arose in 1998. That process resulted in Quince’s ascension to the high court.

“The petitioners have provided no basis at this time to foreclose even the possibility of a similar agreement between Gov. Scott and his successor,” Scott’s motion argues.

“If this court does not clarify the Oct. 15 order … the order should be clarified by recognizing that Gov. Scott — like Gov. Chiles — has the authority to make the appointments in question with the consent of the governor-elect chosen at the November 2018 general election.”

Parties including the League of Women Voters of Florida were behind the legal challenge to Scott’s attempt to fill the seats.

‘Pre-reveal’ games dispute could head to Supreme Court

A dispute about the legality of certain electronic games — known as “pre-reveal” and played in bars and other establishments  — could be headed to the Florida Supreme Court.

Blue Sky Games, which developed the games, and Jacksonville-based Gator Coin, which leased the games to businesses, have filed notices that are a first step in asking the court to take up the issue, according to information posted Monday on appeals-court dockets.

The 1st District Court of Appeal in August upheld a circuit judge’s ruling that the so-called “pre-reveal” games are illegal slot machines.

The legal wrangling began when the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco ordered two businesses to remove the machines, prompting challenges from Blue Sky Games and Gator Coin.

Supporters of the games have contended that the machines are legal because they include a “preview” feature that advises players of the outcome of the games.

But regulators and other critics have argued the preview feature doesn’t matter because the “random number generator” used to create the games equates to the definition of slot machines, which are games of “chance,” under state law.

Also, a key issue has been whether the slot-machine law applies to playing a single game or a series of games. While the outcome of the first “pre-reveal” game is known in advance, a player at the outset does not know the results of subsequent games.

The appeals court upheld a ruling last year by Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper, who originally sided with Blue Sky Games and Gator Coin but then reversed himself.

The reversal came after the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which became involved in the case, asked Cooper to reconsider his initial decision. The tribe operates casinos that include slot machines.

Order in the (Supreme) Court: Suit aims to short-circuit nominating process

Progressive groups now are suing to stop a state nominating panel from recommending candidates to the Florida Supreme Court, saying it “lacks the authority to make its nominations before the vacancies occur.”

The League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause filed Friday evening to halt the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC).

Earlier Friday, that panel announced it still plans to interview 59 lawyers and judges who applied to be the next three justices on the state’s highest court.

That’s after the court itself, in an unsigned order earlier this month, said outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott cannot appoint the replacements for Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, and Peggy A. Quince. Scott, who favors conservative jurists, said he would name their replacements; the groups challenged him and won.

Here’s what’s at stake: The next justices will likely determine the ideological balance of the court. Pariente, Lewis, and Quince are regarded as the liberal-leaning contingent; Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justices Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson are the conservatives. Justice Jorge Labarga is sometimes a swing vote.

The organizations argued Scott shouldn’t be able to replace the outgoing justices because their terms don’t expire till the last minute of his last day in office, but the new governor will be sworn in earlier.

And the court’s order came with similar provisos, that “the justices do not leave prior to the expiration of their terms at midnight between January 7 and January 8, 2019, and provided that the (new) governor takes office immediately upon the beginning of his term.”

As it stands now, the next governor — almost certainly either Republican Ron DeSantis or Democrat Andrew Gillum — will have to pick from the JNC’s list of nominees.

The “proceedings underway create, at the very least, sufficient appearance of a tainted process that (Scott and the JNC) should be prohibited from any further actions other than alerting the public that applications will continue to be received at least through January 8,” according to Friday’s filing by attorney John S. Mills of Tallahassee.

It asks the court “to order the Commission to accept new applications … no earlier than January 8, 2019, prohibit the Commission from taking any other action on these vacancies until January 8, 2019, and prohibit Gov. Scott from taking any further action related to the Commission or its membership other than preserving all records related to the proceedings of the Commission generated at any time during his administration.”

The JNC “begins interviewing applicants November 3, and it is clearly poised to make its nominations by November 9,” the filing said. “The dispute will not become moot once interviews begin or even if nominations are made, but it would be far better to decide these issues before the Commission announced nominees.”

Of the 59 applicants, it added, “only 11 women applied, only 6 applicants identify as black, and only 6 identify as Hispanic. The list of applicants has been described in the press as including a ‘who’s who of conservative judges.’ ”

Jason Unger, who chairs the Supreme Court JNC, could not be reached Friday night.

In recent weeks, Scott tried to defuse the litigation by offering to confer with his successor on candidates, taking a page from the late Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, who reached a similar accord with incoming Republican Jeb Bush in 1998. Quince is the last justice appointed through such consultations.

Geoff Burgan, then the campaign communications director for Gillum, spurned the offer, saying: “In our understanding of the Constitution, the next Governor will appoint the next three Supreme Court justices.”

Supreme Court explains its OK of victims’ rights ballot language

The Florida Supreme Court, as promised, issued its written decision explaining why it allowed the Constitution Revision Commission’s victims’ rights amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot — and the majority swept aside complaints the ballot language is misleading.

”In this case, the ballot title and summary comply with the statutory word limitations. Additionally, the title and summary inform voters of the chief purpose of the proposal and do not mislead regarding its scope and effect,” said the majority of Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justices Jorge Labarga, Alan Lawson and Ricky Polston.

A dissent, however, predicted the measure would bog down the courts in disputes pitting its list of protections for victims against defendants’ long-established due-process rights.

“I have genuine concerns that the new, comprehensive manual of victims’ rights created by Amendment 6 would, in fact, impact our criminal justice system and the rights of the accused,” Justice Barbara Pariente wrote.

“At the least, these changes will likely cause a wave of litigation in which the courts will be asked to resolve conflicts between victims’ and defendants’ enumerated constitutional rights — including defendants’ constitutional rights to speedy trial, due process, and confrontation,” she added.

Crime victims already enjoy the right the right “to be informed, to be present, and to be heard when relevant, at all crucial stages of criminal proceedings, to the extent that these rights do not interfere with the constitutional rights of the accused.”

The proposed amendment, sometimes referred to as Marsy’s Law, after a California crime victim, would enact a long list of additional procedural safeguards, including the right to be informed of any criminal, appellate, or clemency proceedings, plus the right to a speedy trial and time limits on appeals.

Those rights would extend to juvenile justice proceedings.

The proposal, which was ‘bundled’ with other issues, also would raise judges’ mandatory retirement age from 70 to 75 and eliminate deference to agencies’ regulations.

A Tallahassee judge, ruling in a challenge brought by the League of Women Voters of Florida and two private citizens, found the language misleading and ordered it struck from the ballot.

But the court approved the same language in an order issued on Sept. 7, saying the justices would explain their reasoning later.

The majority opinion stresses the court’s obligation to exercise “extreme care, caution, and restraint” before denying voters a say on proposed amendments.

They waived away concerns about defendant’s rights on a number of points, including speedy trials: “The defendant would still retain a right to a speedy trial that would not be subordinated to the newly created victims’ right.”

Moreover, “if the amendment passes, the defendant may still waive his or her right to a speedy trial, and a trial court could extend holding the trial beyond the 60 days by entering an order with a justification for doing so even though the victim has demanded a speedy trial.

“A defendant does not have a right to unreasonable delay that would conflict with the newly created victims’ right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay.”

Another argument — that the ballot language is ambiguous about whether corporations could qualify as victims — was not seen as an impediment.

“Nothing in Amendment 6 states whether or not crime victims includes corporations; therefore, the summary accurately reflects the text of Amendment 6,” they said.

“And this court has held that it will not strike a proposal from the ballot based upon an argument concerning the ambiguous legal effect of the amendment’s text rather than the clarity of the ballot title and summary.”

Pariente insisted the proposal “hides the ball” as to its chief purpose — “to underhandedly uproot the long-standing balance between the constitutional rights of the accused and victims.”

Justice Peggy Quince signed on with Pariente. Justice Fred Lewis dissented separately without filing an opinion.

Florida Supreme Court cracking down on judicial campaign misconduct

The Florida Supreme Court has explained why it removed Dana Marie Santino from the Palm Beach County trial bench — and it looks like the days when judges could remain on the bench notwithstanding egregious campaign ethics violations are over.

The high court stripped Santino of office in July amid complaints she’d engaged in ugly, “Donald Trump-like” tactics — as the Palm Beach post put it — against her runoff opponent in a 2016 election to fill a vacancy on the Circuit Court.

The court promised a written ruling later. It landed Friday.

Over two dissents, a court majority declined, in an unsigned ruling, to let Santino off with even a hefty fine. That’s what the court did in a similar case against Escambia County Judge Patricia Kinsey in 2003, imposing a $50,000 penalty.

The court noted that Santino had declared following the election, while under threat of sanction, that her discipline would “probably be a fine” and would be “no big deal.”

“Simply stated, Santino’s conduct does not evidence a present fitness to hold judicial office,” the majority said.

“We refuse to endorse a ‘win-at-all-costs-and-pay-the-fine-later’ strategy, especially in light of our past warnings and stated intolerance for the kinds of campaign violations at issue here. By her own admission, had we imposed a fine as a sanction, it would confirm that Santino’s violations were ‘not a big deal,’ the opinion says.

“Moreover, if this court imposed a suspension, it would send a message to all attorneys campaigning for judicial office that they may commit egregious violations of Canon 7 during their campaigns and, if they win, a suspension or a fine or both will be the only result. They will be allowed to reap the benefits of their misconduct by continuing to serve the citizens of this state.”

The court did take note of “significant mitigation” in the case, including testimonials from colleagues.

Canon 7 spells out judges’ and judicial candidates’ ethical responsibilities. The Judicial Qualifications Commission concluded in March that Santino had violated five sections of the canon, plus Florida Bar rules, during her campaign against Gregg Lerman.

Her Facebook page, for example, said “attorney Gregg Lerman has made a lot of money trying to free Palm Beach County’s worst criminals. Now he’s running for judge!” It also included a photo of Lerman surrounded by words such as “identity theft,” “rape,” “sexual assault,” “pedophiles” and “murder,” according to court records.

“Santino’s numerous statements during her campaign evidenced a bias against criminal defendants, toward whom she imputed guilt; against criminal defense attorneys, whom she implied had some character fault because they ‘choose’ to represent criminal defendants; and in favor of victims, whom she boasted that she worked to protect during her legal career,” the court said.

“Such statements are sufficient to create fear on the behalf of criminal defendants — who are entitled to a presumption of innocence under the basic tenets of our judicial system — that they would not receive a fair trial or hearing.”

Signing the opinion were justices Jorge LabargaAlan LawsonBarbara Pariente, and Peggy Quince. Justice Fred Lewis agreed with the result, but wrote a concurring opinion complaining that the majority hadn’t gone far enough in denouncing Santino’s behavior.

“Today, the majority has chosen to sanitize and soften the facts surrounding the campaign misconduct committed in this case, apparently in the interest of political correctness or for some other reason,” he wrote.

“The circumstances of this case, however, are so egregious and so reprehensible that any attempt to refine them does a disservice to the bench and to our judicial system as a whole, and further diminishes the citizen’s trust in the judiciary beyond what Santino has already inflicted,” he added.

“I simply cannot endorse the sanitized rendition of the facts with the omission of the actual published material along with the analysis the majority adopts,” Lewis continued — and he appended copies of her Facebook page to his opinion.

Lewis complained that the court has been going too easy on such behavior.

He noted that Santino had blamed her campaign adviser for the wrongdoing, but had signed an oath attesting that she was familiar with her ethical duties when, she later conceded, she hadn’t read the case law.

And that she had apologized to her defeated opponent only in the face of an ethics investigation.

Such behavior is “is exactly the behavior that I cautioned would arise” when the court settled for the fine for Kinsey, a case in which he’d dissented from the sanction.

“Now, the court is yet again addressing campaign violations similar to those in cases past,” he wrote.

“Moreover, the campaign violations that Santino committed are the most flagrant to date, and her lack of remorse is the most blatant yet. Thus, I reemphasize this court’s previously stated no-tolerance practice in these situations and conclude that the only result worthy of yet another case involving conduct that ignores our judicial canons on campaign misconduct was removal.”

Justice Ricky Polston wrote a dissent, joined by Chief Justice Charles Canady. He argued that the same precedents that Lewis lamented compelled removal only when campaign misbehavior is married to additional misconduct.

Those precedents included the case of Judge Scott DuPont of the 7th Judicial Circuit, comprising Putnam, Flagler, St. Johns and Volusia counties. The Supreme Court removed him in June for publishing false allegations against his 2016 election challenger and other actions while on the bench.

“Because Judge Santino committed serious campaign misrepresentations without some additional misconduct establishing present unfitness, the recommendation of removal is not the appropriate discipline,” Polston wrote.

Justices OK ‘bundling,’ amendments will go to voters

The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared three proposed constitutional amendments for the Nov. 6 ballot, narrowly rejecting a challenge by retired Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead that they improperly bundled multiple items.

In an unsigned opinion, the majority ruled that the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) was within its authority under state law, and the state and U.S. constitutions, to lump disparate ideas into what became Amendments 7, 9, and 11.

The vote was 4-3.

Such “logrolling” is improper when done by the Legislature or citizen initiative. But the CRC process “embodies adequate safeguards to protect against logrolling and deception,” the opinion says.

Anstead and fellow plaintiff Robert Barnas, a former state elections commissioner, had argued such bundling violates voters’ First Amendment right “to cast a meaningful vote on each independent and unrelated proposal.” The majority said that was “a novel theory with no apparent support in the law.”

— Amendment 7 would grant death benefits and waive some educational expenses for survivors of military personnel and first responders; require supermajorities among university overseers to raise fees; and establish the state college system as a constitutional entity.

— Amendment 9 would ban both drilling for oil and natural gas in state waters and using vaping devices in indoor workplaces.

— Amendment 11 mixes elimination of a ban on owning property by aliens ineligible for citizenship with a prohibition on retroactive application of changes in the criminal law.

(A summary of the amendments is here.)

Chief Justice Charles Canady signed the majority opinion, as did justices Jorge Labarga, Alan Lawson, and Ricky Polston. Canady, Lawson and Polston are considered the court’s conservative contingent.

Of the three more liberal-leaning members, Justice Barbara Pariente wrote an opinion, joined by Justices R. Fred Lewis and Peggy A. Quince, concurring with the result on procedural ground but disagreeing with the majority on substance.

“Voters beware!” Pariente wrote, pointing to “the obvious dangers of logrolling — combining popular and unpopular proposals into a single proposal — even by the CRC.”

She dismissed the purported CRC anti-logrolling safeguards, noting that the actual bundling occurred after public hearings had closed.

“The bottom line is that the ultimate authority to amend the Constitution rests with the voters in this state,” Pariente wrote.

“By bundling multiple, independent and unrelated proposals, combining ‘popular’ amendments with controversial amendments on the ballot, the CRC makes it more difficult for voters to intelligently exercise their right to vote.

“Indeed, in some cases, bundling prohibits voters from exercising this right altogether because it forces them to reject proposals they would otherwise approve because they disapprove of another unrelated controversial proposal,” she added.

Environmental organizations praised the ruling’s application to Amendment 9.

“Tourism is Florida’s biggest industry, and drilling is just not worth the risk,” said Susan Glickman, Florida director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

“Drilling is dirty business. Thousands of oil spills happen every year in U.S. waters, and increasingly intense hurricanes add to the risk of oil spills,” she said.

“While there is currently a ban for near-shore drilling in Florida’s waters, state lawmakers could easily lift that, and they tried before,” executive director Stephen Smith said.

“Florida needs this constitutional amendment to ensure long-term protection of the state’s coasts, including its beautiful beaches and marine life, which help drive the state’s robust tourism economy.”

Joe Henderson: Supreme Court ruling brings out Mini-Me in Ron DeSantis

Ron DeSantis hasn’t mentioned President Donald Trump much now that the general election for Florida Governor is getting closer, but that might change after Monday’s stinging slap by the Florida Supreme Court at Gov. Rick Scott.

After lawsuits by the Florida League of Women Voters and Common Cause, the state’s highest court ruled that Scott cannot nominate replacements for three justices set to retire at midnight on Jan. 8, 2019 — the same day Scott vacates the Governor’s Mansion and the winner of the gubernatorial race between DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum moves in.

The new guy gets to choose.

Those are the rules, darn the luck.

When in doubt, break out the boogeyman. That’s straight out of Trump’s playbook and Ron DeSantis put on his best Mini-Me imitation after the ruling by quickly tweeting Gillum would be pressured by “out-of-state, radical groups” to appoint “activist judges” who would “legislate from the bench to fit their own ideology.”

First off, that ignores the Judicial Nominating Committee, which will present the new Governor a list of candidates from which he must choose. As the Tampa Bay Times reported Wednesday, the JNC — which is top-loaded with Scott appointees — stays on into the new year. That bunch is unlikely to care what Gillum or “out-of-state, radical groups” would want. Gillum would have little or no say in the matter.

For now, though, let’s roll with the idea of legislating from the bench — a pet phrase of Republicans, and one that DeSantis just invoked.

I assume  “radical” would be defined by any ruling with which he disagrees.

Or, does he mean the current Supreme Court ruling that declared, “Governor Scott exceeded his authority by directing the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission submit its nominations to fill these vacancies by November 10, 2018” was legislating from the bench?

By his logic, I guess so.

That is, of course, opposed to the good ol’ American conservative judges DeSantis would favor. He is implying they would be more inclined to see things through a Republican lens.

Would such judges have allowed Scott to pack the Court with conservatives just as he was leaving office? Is that what DeSantis is saying should have happened?

But … but … that violated state law. It would have been wrong.

The ruling sort of blows a hole in the theory that only conservative judges follow the law while those pesky liberals make it up as they go along while humming Taylor Swift tunes.

It’s the same fear-and-smear tactic Trump used to push the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, though. Anyone who opposed him, the president declared, and his supporters parroted, was part of a “liberal mob” — which, I guess, makes the National Council of Churches part of that vast left-wing rabble because that group opposed Kavanaugh.

Republican animosity against the Florida Supreme Court has been going on for many years.

In 2012, for instance, the state GOP launched an unprecedented campaign against justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince – the same three who are being forced into retirement at the end of this year because of age limits.

Why?

One reason they were so mad was that the court ruled against allowing a referendum against Obamacare to go on the statewide ballot because the language was misleading (it was later rewritten).

This was after Republicans tried, and failed, to expand the court to 10 so Scott could pick three additional members.

In 2016, the Court struck down Florida’s death penalty provision that said capital punishment could be imposed with only a majority of 12 jurors voted in favor. When the state reworked the law to make it 10 out 12 the Court said nope, it had to be unanimous.

The ruling party doesn’t like to be told no.

With Republicans controlling both houses of the Legislature and the Governor’s mansion for the last 20 years, the Supreme Court often is the firewall between a Republican lawmaking rampage that ignores the other half of the state that might think differently.

So, yeah, the Court is going to get a makeover, and it may not matter much who wins the Governor’s race.

But what the heck. Scare ’em anyway, right?

Supreme Court rules Rick Scott can’t name 3 new justices

The state’s Supreme Court ruled Monday that outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott cannot appoint replacements for the court’s three upcoming vacancies.

“The governor who is elected in the November 2018 general election (most likely Democrat Andrew Gillum or Republican Ron DeSantis) has the sole authority to fill the vacancies that will be created by the mandatory retirement of Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, and Peggy A. Quince,” the court’s one-page unsigned order said.

Two progressive groups, the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause, had filed suit against Scott. They sought to block his nominations; he’s said he would have picked conservative jurists.

Scott

The next justices will likely determine the ideological balance of the state’s highest court: Pariente, Lewis, and Quince are regarded as the liberal-leaning contingent; Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justices Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson are the conservatives. Justice Jorge Labarga is often a swing vote.

The court’s ruling suggested they bought into the group’s argument that Scott shouldn’t be able to replace the outgoing justices because their terms don’t end till the last minute of Jan. 7, his last day in office, but the new governor will be sworn in earlier that morning.

Its order was contingent on the fact that the three justices “do not leave prior to the expiration of their terms at midnight between Jan. 7 and Jan. 8, 2019, and provided that the (next) governor takes office immediately upon the beginning of his term.”

“The people will have a very important say in this matter, especially because both candidates have staked out very different positions on the kinds of people they are looking to appoint to the court,” said John Mills, attorney for the plaintiffs, in a statement.

“Andrew Gillum has said he will ‘appoint diverse, qualified judges who represent the breadth and depth of people in this state,’ ” he added. “Ron DeSantis has said he will ‘appoint constitutional conservatives’ who will be very different from the retiring justices, who he characterizes as ‘liberal’ and accuses of ‘legislating from the bench for the past 20 years.’ Voters now have the opportunity to factor these positions into their choice for governor.”

Further, the court found that Scott “exceeded his authority by directing the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission (‘the JNC’) to submit its nominations to fill these vacancies” by Nov. 10.

That panel was planning on interviewing all 59 applicants for the three vacancies on Nov. 3 and 4 in Miami, and Nov. 8 and 9 in Tampa. (One of those applicants, Jeff Burns, later on Monday sued to disqualify Pariente, Lewis and Quince from the case for an “objective economic conflict of interest.”)

The 60-day period “after nominations have been certified within which the governor is required to make appointments, as set forth in … the Florida Constitution begins to run only when the governor with the authority to appoint has taken office,” the court said. “As the JNC is an independent body, it is not bound by Gov. Scott’s deadlines.”

The court also set oral argument for Nov. 8 on “the issue of when the JNC can certify its nominations.”

In recent weeks, Scott tried to defuse the litigation by offering to confer with his successor on candidates, taking a page from the late Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, who reached a similar accord with incoming Republican Jeb Bush in 1998. Quince is the last justice appointed through such consultations.

Geoff Burgan, then the campaign communications director for Gillum, spurned the offer, saying: “In our understanding of the Constitution, the next Governor will appoint the next three Supreme Court justices.”

In a statement later Monday, Gillum said he was “pleased the … Court has brought closure to this important issue, finding — as we have consistently stated — that the next Governor of Florida will appoint the next three Supreme Court justices.

“It is a duty I take extremely seriously and, as Governor, one of my top priorities will be to restore integrity to the judicial nominating process,” he added.

DeSantis tweeted: “If (Gillum) is elected, out-of-state, radical groups would pressure him to appoint activist judges who would legislate from the bench to fit their own ideology. The consequences would be dangerous and felt for generations.

“I promise to only appoint judges who will uphold the Constitution and follow the law as it is written. We must secure Florida’s future.”

Scott, a Naples Republican who is term-limited as Governor, now is running to unseat incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, first elected in 2000.

The present suit had been first filed last year but the court said it couldn’t step into the controversy then because the Governor hadn’t taken any action yet.

In that decision, Labarga joined with the court’s conservatives. Pariente and Quince concurred, but Lewis dissented and called Scott’s proposed actions “blatantly unconstitutional.”

The court’s Monday decision also means the court could be short on justices for a while: The nominating and appointment process can take as long as four months, including background screening and reviews of The Florida Bar’s disciplinary records.

And the court itself tweaked its own rules last year regarding how and when retired justices can serve as “senior justices.”

A controversy erupted when then-Chief Justice Labarga allowed retired Justice James E.C. Perry to finish work on opinions, following decades of court practice. This was after Lawson, a Scott appointee, replaced Perry.

Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran prepared a legal challenge to Perry’s continued work, saying among other things that Perry was an unconstitutional “eighth justice” on the seven-member court.

Interviews scheduled for state Supreme Court vacancies

A review panel announced Friday it had decided to interview all 59 applicants for three upcoming Florida Supreme Court vacancies.

The Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) will meet Nov. 3 and Nov. 4 in Miami, and again Nov. 8 and Nov. 9 in Tampa.

“This schedule will position the Florida Supreme Court JNC to certify nominations at the earliest on Nov. 10 or sometime thereafter to give the Governor and Governor-elect ample time to do their vetting and minimize the time that these three judicial vacancies remain unfilled,” a press release said. 

The South Florida interviews will take place at the Miami International Airport Hotel; the Tampa interviews will be held at the Airport Executive Center. 

Each interview will last about a half hour. The schedule for individual candidates is here

Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, and Peggy A. Quince face mandatory retirement on the same day that term-limited Gov. Rick Scott, a Naples Republican, leaves office. He is now running against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate.

The next justices will likely determine the ideological balance of the state’s highest court: Pariente, Lewis, and Quince are regarded as the liberal-leaning contingent; Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justices Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson are the conservatives. Justice Jorge Labarga is often a swing vote.

Progressive groups have renewed a lawsuit against Scott, however, saying the outgoing governor doesn’t have the authority to appoint three new justices.

Scott has said he would agree to confer with the next governor-elect on the three justices. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is the Democratic nominee; Ponte Vedra Beach congressman Ron DeSantis is the GOP nominee.

Quince was the last justice to be appointed that way in 1998, and was the consensus candidate of then Gov. Lawton Chiles, a Democrat, and Gov.-elect Jeb Bush, a Republican.

A Gillum spokesman has all but spurned the idea, saying that “in our understanding of the constitution, the next Governor will appoint the next three Supreme Court justices.”

Scott said he will announce the new justices on Jan. 7, his last day in office, which coincides with the outgoing justices’ retirement date.

Florida Supreme Court openings get dozens of applications

Despite a looming legal challenge, nearly 60 people have applied for three upcoming vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court, including Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s former chief of staff.

Carlos Muniz, now the general counsel to the U.S. Department of Education, was on a list of names provided to Florida Politics by Gov. Rick Scott‘s office on Monday evening after a public record request.

Also on the list is Hillsborough Circuit Judge Laurel Lee, wife of state Sen. Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican. She was appointed by Scott in May 2013, and many of the other judges who applied are Scott appointees.

Polk Circuit Judge John Stargel, a former Republican state Representative, also has applied. He’s the husband of state Sen. Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican.

Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, and Peggy A. Quince face mandatory retirement on the same day that the term-limited Scott, a Naples Republican, leaves office. He is now running against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate.

The next justices will likely determine the ideological balance of the state’s highest court: Pariente, Lewis, and Quince are regarded as the liberal-leaning contingent; Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justices Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson are the conservatives. Justice Jorge Labarga is often a swing vote.

Progressive groups have renewed a lawsuit against Scott, however, saying the outgoing governor doesn’t have the authority to appoint three new justices.

Daniel Nordby, Scott’s general counsel, said in an email he had received the applications, due 5 p.m. Monday, from the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC).

The applications themselves were unavailable because the governor’s legal office still must redact them for confidential information, he said.

“As a result of the hurricane and some email bounce-backs, it is possible that the final list may include an additional name or two,” he said. “At least one of the three appointees must be a resident of the 3rd Appellate District (Miami-Dade and Monroe counties), so those applicants are listed separately.”

The other two seats are at-large. The JNC next must decide which applicants to interview.

Under the state constitution, judges and justices face mandatory retirement at age 70. In Florida, judicial vacancies are filled by appointment by the Governor, from a list of applicants vetted and submitted by judicial nominating panels.

Scott has said he would agree to confer with the next governor-elect on the three justices. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is the Democratic nominee; Ponte Vedra Beach congressman Ron DeSantis is the GOP nominee.

Quince was the last justice to be appointed that way in 1998, and was the consensus candidate of then Gov. Lawton Chiles, a Democrat, and Gov.-elect Jeb Bush, a Republican.

A Gillum spokesman has all but spurned the idea, saying that “in our understanding of the constitution, the next Governor will appoint the next three Supreme Court justices.”

Scott said he will announce the new justices on Jan. 7, his last day in office, which coincides with their retirement date.

Scott’s insistence on replacing the three spurred a legal challenge last year by the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause, who revived their suit last month. The progressive organization’s implied concern was that Scott would pack the court with more conservatives.

In a 6-1 decision, the Supreme Court said in December that it couldn’t step into the controversy because the Governor hadn’t taken any action yet.

The lone dissenter? Lewis, who said Scott’s plan to make the appointments on his way out the door was “blatantly unconstitutional.”

The full list of applicants and their current positions is below.

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Residents of 3rd Appellate District

Judge Alex Bokor (Miami-Dade County)

Amy Brigham Boulris (Gunster Law Firm)

John Couriel (Kobre & Kim)

Edward Guedes (Weiss Serota Cole & Bierman)

Judge Barbara Lagoa (3rd District Court of Appeal [DCA])

Judge Norma Lindsey (3rd DCA)

Judge Robert Luck (3rd DCA)

Hayden O’Byrne (K&L Gates)

Judge Ed Scales (3rd DCA)

Judge William Thomas (11th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Daryl Trawick (11th Judicial Circuit)

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Non-residents of 3rd Appellate District

Judge Michael Andrews (6th Judicial Circuit)

Judge J. Andrew Atkinson (2nd DCA)

Judge Ross Bilbrey (1st DCA)

Judge-Elect Jeffrey Burns (Anchors Smith Grimsley/1st Judicial Circuit)

Judge Hunter Carroll (12th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Howard Coates (15th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Angela Cowden (10th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Cynthia Cox (19th Judicial Circuit)

Judge James Daniel (4th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Scott Duncan (1st Judicial Circuit)

Manuel Farach (McGlinchey Stafford)

Judge Jonathan Gerber (4th DCA)

Bryan Gowdy (Creed & Gowdy)

Judge Jamie Grosshans (5th DCA)

Judge Bradley Harper (Palm Beach County)

Judge Terrance Ketchel (1st Judicial Circuit)

Judge Mark Klingensmith (4th DCA)

Judge Jeffrey Kuntz (4th DCA)

Judge Bruce Kyle (20th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Laurel Lee (13th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Robert Long (2nd Judicial Circuit)

Judge Scott Makar (1st DCA)

Judge Mark Mahon (4th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Michael McDaniel (10th Judicial Circuit)

Mark Miller (Pacific Legal Foundation)

Carlos Muniz (U.S. Department of Education)

Judge Timothy Osterhaus (1st DCA)

Judge Tom Ramsberger (6th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Eric Roberson (4th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Clay Roberts (1st DCA)

Judge William Roby (19th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Cymonie Rowe (15th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Samuel Salario (2nd DCA)

Judge Tatiana Salvador (4th Judicial Circuit)

Leonard Samuels (Berger Singerman)

Stephen Senn (Peterson & Myers)

Judge Raag Singhal (17th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Pat Siracusa (6th Judicial Circuit)

Chief Judge Jonathan Sjostrom (2nd Judicial Circuit)

Judge Elijah Smiley (14th Judicial Circuit)

Donna Solomon (Solomon Appeals, Mediation, & Arbitration)

Judge Adrian Soud (4th Judicial Circuit)

Judge John Stargel (10th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Anthony Tatti (5th Judicial Circuit)

Matthew Thatcher (The Solomon Law Group)

Judge M. Kemmerly Thomas (1st DCA)

Judge Waddell Wallace (4th Judicial Circuit)

Judge Bo Winokur (1st DCA)

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Capital correspondent Michael Moline and The News Service of Florida contributed to this post, republished with permission.

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