A proposal that would amend the Florida Constitution to limit Supreme Court justices and appellate judges to two six-year terms was approved by the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday.
“I think it’s a great bill,” said an enthusiastic Richard Corcoran, the House Budget chairman who hails from Pasco County. He said that there are only two checks on justices currently, one being a “draconian” impeachment process that has never played out in Florida. The other are retention elections, in which judges are always re-elected back to the bench.
Winter Haven Republican John Wood is sponsoring the bill in the House (HJR 197). He said that with presidents, Florida legislators and in many cases county commissioners subject to term limits, why not judges?
“To make the argument that the judiciary is different just doesn’t seem to reflect how our government is set up,” Wood said, in a radical departure from existing laws around the land. No other state in the union imposes term limits on judges, with the exception of New Mexico probate judges.
The three previous times that term limits for judges were placed on ballots in other states, they were defeated – Colorado in 2006, Nevada in 1996, and Mississippi in 1995.
Several Democrats spoke out against the proposal.
“I believe there’s value in experience, and I believe that value would be diminished with term limits,” said Opa Locka Democrat Cynthia Stafford. “We already have forced retirements (at 70). We already have the merit retention process. And we’re now adding term limits to that mix, and I believe at the importance of the independence of the judiciary.”
“I think there’s something important with having judges staying a longer time,” added House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, referring to how legislators are limited to serving only eight years. “I think we’re better form of government when in fact we have difference in how we operate.”
It would cost $58,000 to put the measure on the ballot.