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Supreme Court to rule on judge, Facebook friend

With potential ramifications in courthouses across the state, the Florida Supreme Court on Monday said it will take up a dispute about whether a judge should be disqualified from a case because she is a Facebook friend with a lawyer.

Justices issued an order saying they will consider an appeal of an August ruling by the 3rd District Court of Appeal that rejected a request to disqualify Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Beatrice Butchko. The dispute stems from Butchko being a Facebook friend of attorney Israel Reyes, who was hired to represent an insurance-company executive in a case before her.

The Herssein Law Group, which had sued a former client, United Services Automobile Association, for alleged breach of contract and fraud, is seeking the disqualification. In a Supreme Court brief filed in October, the Herssein Law Group said the 3rd District Court of Appeal ruling conflicted with an earlier decision of the 4th District Court of Appeal that said a judge should be disqualified from a criminal case because of being Facebook friends with a prosecutor.

“The Third District Court of Appeal’s opinion, therefore, creates completely different standards for judges in Florida, depending on which district the judge sits in, to determine when and whether they are violating the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct,” the brief said. “This is untenable for both judges and the public perception of the judiciary. The application and interpretation of the Code of Judicial Conduct must be uniform for all judges in the state of Florida.”

Attorneys for the insurance company, however, filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to turn down the case. They argued, in part, that the Herssein case has different circumstances from the earlier case involving a prosecutor.

“Further, petitioners (the Herssein Law Group) are sophisticated litigators who have practiced in Miami-Dade County for many years,” the insurance-company brief said. “It is highly questionable whether any reasonably prudent person in petitioners’ situation would have a well-founded fear of not receiving a fair and impartial trial simply because the trial judge and Reyes are Facebook `friends.’ “

The Supreme Court, as is standard, did not explain its reasons for deciding to take up the case. It said it would schedule oral arguments in a separate order.

In its ruling in August, the 3rd District Court of Appeal concluded that “a `friend’ on a social networking website is not necessarily a friend in the traditional sense of the word.”

“To be sure, some of a member’s Facebook `friends’ are undoubtedly friends in the classic sense of person for whom the member feels particular affection and loyalty,” the decision said. “The point is, however, many are not. A random name drawn from a list of Facebook `friends’ probably belongs to casual friend; an acquaintance; an old classmate; a person with whom the member shares a common hobby; a `friend of a friend;’ or even a local celebrity like a coach. An assumption that all Facebook `friends’ rise to the level of a close relationship that warrants disqualification simply does not reflect the current nature of this type of electronic social networking.”

Florida takes No. 1 spot on ‘Judicial Hellholes’ list

Florida takes the top spot among the states in more than a few lists, but it earned a “distinction” from the American Tort Reform Association which said the Sunshine State was the No. 1 “Judicial Hellhole” in the country.

Florida was one of eight states or judicial districts getting a write up in 2017-2018 Judicial Hellholes, earning the top spot in the ring of dishonor alongside courts in California, St. Louis, New York City, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Illinois and Louisiana.

“The Florida Supreme Court’s liability-expanding decisions and barely contained contempt for the lawmaking authority of legislators and the governor has repeatedly led to its inclusion in this report. And though the high court’s plaintiff-friendly majority this year shrunk from 5-2 to 4-3, a hushed discus­sion between two majority justices recently caught by an open microphone suggests that this majority is as partisan as ever and brazenly determined to influence the judicial selection process as three like-minded col­leagues face mandatory retirement in early 2019,” the report said.

“Meanwhile, an aggressive personal injury bar’s fraudulent and abusive practices in South Florida and elsewhere have also tarnished the state’s reputation. Encouragingly, at least some plaintiffs’ lawyers who’ve crossed the line are being held accountable, either with stiff court sanctions or criminal prosecutions. But with the help of some lawmakers, too many are still get­ting away with too much, and for the first time in this report’s 16-year history, enough shade has been cast on the Sunshine State to rank it as the nation’s worst Judicial Hellhole.”

The 2017-2018 report is the first in the 16-year history of the “Judicial Hellholes” series to name Florida the worst.

The report cites Justice C. Alan Lawson replacing retired Justice James E.C. Perry as a move in the right direction, but the report blasted the court for allowing Perry to help decide cases he had started to hear before his retirement date.

The ATRA cited a memo from Edward Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in calling that practice “contrary to the Florida Constitution.”

“It’s one thing to decide already-argued cases without the new member. It’s quite another thing to allow the retired justice to displace the new member in those cases. This elementary distinction seems to have escaped the Florida Supreme Court,” the snippet from Whelan said.

The report also blasted Florida Supreme Court rulings in medical liability cases that it said are detrimental to both patients and healthcare providers, while also making it more difficult to solve disputes disputes without litigation. It also warned that Florida attorneys are bracing for the court’s anticipated rejection of higher standards for expert testimony used in all federal and most state courts.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce pointed to the report as vindication for what it has been saying all along – that Florida’s legal system is one of the worst out there.

“Lawsuit abuse in Florida is an increasingly serious and expensive problem, and it just keeps getting worse. On average, it translates into a $3,400 ‘tax’ for Florida’s families each year, due to increased lawsuit abuse costs,” said Florida Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson.

“There have been five Wall Street Journal articles this year alone talking about Florida’s horrendous lawsuit abuse, the national Institute for Legal Reform named Florida the fifth worst state for legal climate, and now the American Tort Reform Association ranks Florida as the worst Judicial Hellhole, how much more evidence do lawmakers need to take action,” Wilson continued.

NRA lobbyist targets Barbara Pariente

National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer launched a campaign this week to purge Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente from a case that could have far-reaching implications for the makeup of the court.

Hammer, long an influential figure in Tallahassee and a former president of the national gun-rights group, sent an email alert Wednesday morning to NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida “members and friends” urging them to tell Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and Pariente that “she must recuse or resign” from her post.

“Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente has been caught in an act of what we believe is clear judicial misconduct and must recuse herself,” Hammer wrote, attaching an editorial penned by conservative political consultant Justin Sayfie.

In the email, Hammer wrote there “is no other appropriate option” for Pariente than recusal or resignation.

Gov. Rick Scott had asked Pariente to be removed from the case, which centers on whether the governor or his successor has the legal authority to appoint replacements for three justices — Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince — whose terms end as Scott leaves office in January 2019.

Scott’s lawyers argued that comments by Pariente caught on a “hot mic” after oral arguments in the case indicated she was biased against the governor.

Hammer’s Wednesday morning alert went out just as the court issued an order rejecting Scott’s request that Pariente be disqualified from the case. Presiding law in similar cases says that justices, not the entire court, get to decide whether to recuse themselves.

Hammer said the court’s decision Wednesday didn’t matter.

“She can recuse or resign at any time, and those are the only realistic options that are available,” she told The News Service of Florida on Thursday.

Pariente, Quince and Lewis are part of a liberal-leaning bloc that holds a slim 4-3 majority on the state’s high court. Whoever gets to choose the next three justices could shape court decisions for years, if not decades.

The court has thwarted efforts by Second Amendment supporters twice this year alone.

“The majority of our state’s highest court is not only liberal-leaning and biased against the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution but appears to be comfortable with Justice Pariente’s judicial misconduct,” Hammer said in the Thursday interview.

In September, a unanimous court drew a line in the sand in Florida’s “stand your ground” law, by saying the determination of immunity in a criminal case does not carry over to a civil case.

In a 4-2 ruling in March, the court upheld a long-standing ban on people openly carrying firearms in public.

The court could also hear an appeal in another case related to a change in the state’s “stand your ground” law. A Miami judge struck down the change, which supporters of the law called a “notable setback.”

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Barbara Pariente to stay on Rick Scott judicial appointments case

The “hot mic” has gone cold.

In a one-sentence order, the Florida Supreme Court denied Gov. Rick Scott’s request to disqualify Justice Barbara Pariente from a pending case over his judicial appointment power.

“The respondent’s motion to disqualify Justice Pariente is hereby denied,” it said, without elaboration.

Scott “expects all judges to be fair and impartial,” Scott spokesman John Tupps said in a statement.

“It is disappointing that today’s decision was made without providing any plausible justification or explanation for Justice Pariente’s comments,” he added. “Given the gravity of this case, Floridians deserve better.”

The governor’s request stemmed from a conversation between Pariente and Chief Justice Jorge Labarga that was caught on a ‘hot mic’ immediately after a Nov. 1 oral argument in the case.

The League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida are challenging Scott’s authority to appoint three new Supreme Court justices on the last day of his term in 2019.

They say he can’t name successors to the court’s liberal-leaning triumvirate of Justices Pariente, Peggy A. Quince and R. Fred Lewis — only the governor elected after Scott can.

Moments after the argument ended, Labarga can be heard on a video of the courtroom saying what sounds like, “…anything on there, Panuccio.”

Jesse Panuccio, once Scott’s general counsel and a former head of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, is a member of the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission.

Pariente then can be heard saying what sounds like “crazy.”

Scott’s filing said that was “an apparent reference either to Gov. Scott or to (his) appointees to the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission—the constitutional body that will be responsible for nominating her successor.”

The groups had responded Tuesday there was “no there there” in Scott’s complaint, saying the conversational fragments that can be made out don’t paint a picture of “bias or prejudice.”

In fact, they said, “it is simply impossible to tell what the remark referenced.”

As is its usual practice, the court has not signaled when it will rule.

Plaintiffs pooh-pooh Rick Scott’s bias concern in judicial appointments case

“There is no there there” in Gov. Rick Scott‘s complaint that Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente is biased against him, say the plaintiffs in a case over his judicial appointment power.

The League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida responded Tuesday to Scott’s motion for disqualification against Pariente. It was filed earlier this month by Daniel Nordby, Scott’s general counsel.

“No Supreme Court Justice should be disqualified for unintelligible comments that – even as interpreted by the Governor – had no possible relevance to the case that had just been heard and expressed no antipathy to any party or attorney in the case,” the latest filing says.

Pariente and Chief Justice Jorge Labarga had been caught on a ‘hot mic’ immediately after a Nov. 1 oral argument in the case. The groups say Scott, term-limited as governor in 2018, does not have authority to appoint three new Supreme Court justices on the last day of his term.

Those openings are caused by the mandatory retirements for the court’s liberal-leaning trio of Justices R. Fred Lewis, Pariente and Peggy A. Quince.

Moments after the argument ended, Labarga can first be heard on a recording from the courtroom saying what sounds like, “…anything on there, Panuccio.” Jesse Panuccio, once Scott’s general counsel and a former head of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, is a member of the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission.

Pariente then can be heard saying what sounds like “crazy.” Nordby said that was “an apparent reference either to Gov. Scott or to (his) appointees to the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission—the constitutional body that will be responsible for nominating her successor.”

That’s followed by Labarga: “Izzy Reyes is on there, he’ll listen to me.” JNC member Israel U. Reyes is founder of The Reyes Law Firm in Coral Gables and a former circuit judge. He’s also one of four members nominated to the nine-member JNC by The Florida Bar; the others are appointed by the governor.

Tuesday’s filing, by plaintiff’s attorney Thomas D. Hall, starts with an extended footnote on the “bugaboo that has plagued the bench and bar in wired courtrooms for years.”

“One would be hard pressed to find a trial judge or practicing lawyer today with any significant courtroom experience who does not have at least one war story of embarrassing private remarks caught on a live microphone at counsel’s table or in chambers,” he wrote, including “Justices Scalia and Thomas hoping for stiff sentences for courtroom protesters to President Obama criticizing a foreign leader to current United States Senators criticizing President Trump.”

As to the “crazy” remark, he said “no reasonable person could read the partial remarks by Justice Pariente as suggesting any view whatsoever about (Gov. Scott) or any of the lawyers representing him, much less bias or prejudice against them … It is simply impossible to tell what the remark referenced.”

Pariente, Labarga and court spokesman Craig Waters have not commented publicly on the matter.

The filing also dismisses statements made by Pariente while campaigning for retention in 2012, “A vote ‘yes’ will be a vote to retain me and the other two justices … A vote ‘no’ will give Gov. Scott the right to make his appointments, which will result in partisan political appointments.”

“Under no reasonable view was this a comment on what would or should happen if the justices were retained and completed their final terms and (Scott) successfully ran for re-election,” it says.

“(W)hatever controversy (Scott) has sought to create might be diffused by voluntary recusal, which would certainly be the easy road for Justice Pariente,” he added. “On the other hand, giving in to this transparent bullying tactic would set a dangerous precedent,” adding that it could also lead to a 3-3 split, causing more expense and delay.

“At bottom, whether to voluntarily recuse at this late stage is a question (that) precedent places solely in Justice Pariente’s discretion,” Hall wrote.

Later Tuesday night, Scott spokesman John Tupps said that “given Justice Pariente’s remarks, it’s abundantly clear that she will not be able to remain impartial and unbiased in this case. She must recuse herself.”

U.S. Supreme Court rejects challenge to open-carry ban

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to take up a challenge to a Florida law that bars people from openly carrying firearms in public, ending a case that started nearly six years ago when a man was arrested in St. Lucie County.

The U.S. Supreme Court, as is common, did not explain its reasons for declining to hear the case. But the move effectively let stand a Florida Supreme Court ruling in March that said the open-carry ban did not violate the constitutional right to bear arms.

The plaintiff in the case, Dale Norman, was arrested in February 2012 as he openly carried a gun in a holster. Norman, who had a concealed-weapons license, was found guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor, with a judge imposing a $300 fine and court costs, according to court documents.

Backed by the Second Amendment group Florida Carry, Norman challenged the constitutionality of the state’s long-standing ban on openly carrying weapons. But the state’s 4th District Court of Appeal and the Florida Supreme Court ruled against Norman, leading him to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a petition filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, Norman’s attorneys pointed to major rulings in Second Amendment cases from Chicago and Washington, D.C. and argued that the right to openly bear arms exists outside homes.

“The Second Amendment provides in part that `the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.’ This guarantees not only the right to `keep’ arms, such as in one’s house, but also to `bear arms,’ which simply means to carry arms without reference to a specific place. When the Framers intended that a provision of the Bill of Rights related to a house, they said so,” said the petition, filed in July and posted on the Florida Carry website.

But attorneys for the state wrote in a brief that the ban does not violate Second Amendment rights, as people can carry concealed weapons if they have licenses.

“This (U.S. Supreme) Court has never held that the Second Amendment protects a right to openly carry firearms in public, and the reasoning set forth in pertinent case law supports the proposition that states fully accommodate the right to bear arms when they make available to responsible, law-abiding citizens some meaningful form of public carry,” the state’s brief said. “That is precisely what Florida has done here. Thus, Florida’s law is valid under any arguably applicable analytical framework.”

State lawmakers have proposed measures that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to openly carry firearms, but the proposals have not passed. Senate Judiciary Chairman Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican and prominent gun-rights supporter, said this month he did not plan to file such a measure for the 2018 Legislative Session, which starts in January.

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More judges needed in Orlando and Tampa, Florida Supreme Court says

The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday said four additional judges are needed in the Orlando area and Hillsborough County.

It added, however, that judgeships in some counties could be eliminated.

The Supreme Court is required each year to “certify” to the Legislature its analysis of the need for judges, though lawmakers often have not followed the court’s recommendations.

In Wednesday’s opinion, the Supreme Court certified a need for two additional circuit judges in the 9th Judicial Circuit, made up of Orange and Osceola counties, and a need for two more Hillsborough County judges.

But it “decertified” the need for 13 county judges across the state.

That included three county judges in Brevard County, two in Pasco County and one each in Escambia, Leon, Putnam, Alachua, Polk, Monroe, Charlotte and Collier counties.

The Supreme Court’s analysis takes into account factors such as trends in the types of cases filed and judicial workloads.

For example, the analysis found increases in civil filings in circuit and county courts but decreases in traffic-related filings.

State seeks end to satellite TV tax fight

Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s office has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a challenge to the constitutionality of a state law that sets different tax rates for satellite and cable-television services.

Bondi’s office, representing the Florida Department of Revenue, filed a brief last week arguing that the Supreme Court should not take up the challenge filed by Dish Network.

The satellite TV industry has long argued that a law setting a lower state tax rate for cable services discriminates against satellite companies and violates what is known as the “dormant” Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

But in the brief last week, attorneys for the state argued that a federal telecommunications law prevents local governments from taxing satellite services. As a result, the brief said, the state set a higher tax rate for satellite services and shares part of the money with local governments. Meanwhile, local governments can tax cable services.

“If a state taxes communications services at the state and local levels, as Florida does, the only way to ensure that the state receives the same revenue from satellite as other communications services while ensuring that local governments may also receive revenue is to tax satellite at a higher rate and share the revenue with local governments,” the 49-page brief said.

The case has high stakes for the state, along with the cable and satellite industries. A 2015 ruling in favor of the satellite industry by the state’s 1st District Court of Appeal raised the possibility of Florida having to pay refunds to satellite companies.

The Florida Supreme Court, however, overturned the 1st District Court of Appeal ruling in April and sided with the Department of Revenue. That prompted Dish Network to take the dispute to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The state’s communications-services tax is s 4.92 percent on the sale of cable services and 9.07 percent on the sale of satellite-TV services. Local governments also can impose communications-services taxes on cable, with rates varying.

Dish Network contends the different state tax rates on satellite and cable are a form of protectionism that violates the “dormant” Commerce Clause, which bars states from discriminating against interstate commerce.

“In particular, it forbids a state from taxing or regulating differently on the basis of where a good is produced or a service is performed,” Dish Network said in a September petition posted on the SCOTUSblog website, which closely tracks the U.S. Supreme Court. “That’s exactly what the unequal Florida tax does. It puts a heavier duty on pay-TV programming that is assembled and delivered without using massive infrastructure within the state.”

But in the brief filed last week, Bondi’s office said the combination of state and local taxes can lead to cable services being taxed at a higher rate than satellite services.

“Because local governments set their own local CST (communications-services tax) rates, the statewide satellite CST cannot perfectly match the combined CST rates for other communications services,” the brief said. “But in all nine years examined, the average satellite subscriber paid a lower CST rate than the average cable subscriber, giving satellite a tax advantage every year.”

It is unclear when the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to take up the case.

(Disclosure: The News Service of Florida has a partnership with Florida Internet & Television, a cable-industry group, for a periodic news program about state government and politics.)

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Rick Scott moves to throw Barbara Pariente off judicial appointments case

Gov. Rick Scott is moving to remove Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente from a legal challenge to his judicial appointment power, saying she’s biased against him.

Daniel Nordby, Scott’s general counsel, filed a motion for disqualification Monday.

Scott’s decision follows Pariente “making disparaging remarks after the conclusion of the oral argument in this case on November 1, 2017 which were captured on a live microphone and widely reported on,” the Governor’s Office said in a statement.

The motion also refers to statements made by Pariente while campaigning for retention in 2012, “A vote ‘yes’ will be a vote to retain me and the other two justices … A vote ‘no’ will give Gov. Scott the right to make his appointments, which will result in partisan political appointments.”

“Gov. Scott strongly believes that all Floridians deserve judges that are impartial, fair and non-partisan,” Scott spokesman McKinley Lewis said.

“Justice Pariente’s past remarks cast grave doubt on her ability to take an objective and unbiased position when evaluating Gov. Scott’s authority in this case. She must be disqualified to ensure a fair decision.”

Pariente and Chief Justice Jorge Labarga had been caught on a ‘hot mic’ immediately after a Nov. 1 oral argument in a case over Gov. Rick Scott’s judicial appointment power.

Progressive groups claim Scott doesn’t have authority to appoint three new Supreme Court justices on the last day of his term. The openings are caused by the mandatory retirements for the court’s liberal-leaning trio of Justices R. Fred Lewis, Pariente and Peggy A. Quince.

The Governor’s Office had filed a records request for a piece of paper on the bench to which Pariente and Labarga were ostensibly referring during their exchange. That document turned out to be the current membership list of the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commissionwhich happens to include Nordby.

Moments after the argument ended, Labarga can first be heard on a recording from the courtroom saying what sounds like, “…anything on there, Panuccio.” Jesse Panuccio, once Scott’s general counsel and a former head of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, is a member of the Supreme Court JNC.

Pariente then can be heard saying what sounds like “crazy.” Nordby said that was “an apparent reference either to Gov. Scott or to (his) appointees to the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission—the constitutional body that will be responsible for nominating her successor.”

That’s followed by Labarga: “Izzy Reyes is on there, he’ll listen to me.” JNC member Israel U. Reyes is founder of The Reyes Law Firm in Coral Gables and a former circuit judge. He’s also one of four members nominated to the nine-member commission by The Florida Bar; the others are appointed by the governor.

When previously asked if he might pursue recusals of Labarga and Pariente from his case, Scott has said, “I think we have to find out. Let’s put the facts on the table. Then we can make a decision of how we should go forward.”

Nordby’s filing says Pariente’s comments, combined with her previous public statements, “provide a reasonable basis to question her impartiality … Scott is reasonably in doubt that this case will not be decided fairly.”

Pariente, Labarga and court spokesman Craig Waters have not commented publicly on the matter.

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Updated Wednesday – Kendra Arnold, executive director of the conservative Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), issued a statement that her group supports Scott’s motion.

It filed a public records request for Pariente’s and Labarga’s emails over what it calls “the justices’ overt political bias.”

“In a verbal attack on one of Scott’s appointees to the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission, as well as making other past politically biased comments, she has shown herself to be clearly unfit to hear this case objectively,” Arnold said.

“Justice Pariente may not like Gov. Scott or his politics, but a justice’s No. 1 job is to be just, not political. In fact, judicial ethics rules clearly state that any personal bias or prejudice shown by a justice toward a given party is grounds for recusal.”

Right-leaning watchdog now wants judicial emails after ‘hot mic’

A conservative watchdog says it’s filed a public records request for emails from Justice Barbara Pariente and Chief Justice Jorge Labarga after what it calls “the justices’ overt political bias.”

The D.C.-based Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) late Monday released a copy of its request to the Florida Supreme Court.

It asks for copies of emails to or from Pariente and Labarga “that contain the phrases ‘Judicial Nominating Commission’ or ‘JNC,’ or any names” of members of the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission.

The two jurists had been caught on a ‘hot mic‘ immediately after a Nov. 1 oral argument in a case over Gov. Rick Scott’s judicial appointment power.

Progressive groups claim Scott doesn’t have authority to appoint three new Supreme Court justices on the last day of his term. The openings are caused by the mandatory retirements for the court’s liberal-leaning trio of Justices R. Fred Lewis, Pariente and Peggy A. Quince.

Moments after the argument ended, Labarga can first be heard on a recording from the courtroom saying what sounds like, “…anything on there, Panuccio.” Jesse Panuccio, once Scott’s general counsel and a former head of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, is a member of the Supreme Court JNC.

Pariente then can be heard saying what sounds like “crazy.” That’s followed by Labarga: “Izzy Reyes is on there, he’ll listen to me.”

JNC member Israel U. Reyes is founder of The Reyes Law Firm in Coral Gables and a former circuit judge. He’s also one of four members nominated to the nine-member commission by The Florida Bar; the others are appointed by the governor.

Kendra Arnold, FACT’s executive director, used the 14 words that could be made out in the conversation to assign “political bias” to the two justices. Pariente has served almost 20 years on the high court; Labarga has served nearly nine years.

“Judicial temperament that includes threatening lawyers short and long-term as Justice Labarga has done, attacking other public officials in the midst of a political campaign as Justice Pariente has done, and now attacking members of the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission, destroys public faith in the courts,” Arnold said in a statement.

The organization was formed “in 2014 as a conservative counterweight to watchdog groups viewed as more left-of-center, such as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington,” according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Governor’s Office also filed a records request for a piece of paper on the bench to which Pariente and Labarga were ostensibly referring during their exchange. That document turned out to be the current membership list of the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission.

When asked if he might pursue recusals of Labarga and Pariente from his case, Scott has said, “I think we have to find out. Let’s put the facts on the table. Then we can make a decision of how we should go forward.”

In her statement, Arnold was less circumspect: “Both justices should immediately recuse themselves from this case as they have demonstrated a bias against the governor.”

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