Jorge Labarga, other judges qualify for merit-retention election
Jorge Labarga has been an occasional swing vote in close Supreme Court cases. (Photo: Phil Sears/Florida Politics)

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Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and a raft of other appellate judges have already qualified to run for this year’s merit-retention election.

The state’s Division of Elections posted the results online.

In order of district, here are the judges who will stand for merit retention:

1st District Court of Appeal (Tallahassee): Ross Bilbrey, Susan Kelsey, Lori S. Rowe, Kent Wetherell, Bo Winokur, Jim Wolf. 

2nd District Court of Appeal (Lakeland): John Badalamenti, Marva L. Crenshaw, Nelly N. Khouzam, Matt Lucas, Robert Morris, Stevan Travis Northcutt, Samuel Salario Jr., Craig C. Villanti, Douglas Alan Wallace. 

3rd District Court of Appeal (Miami): Edwin A. Scales, Linda Ann Wells. 

4th District Court of Appeal (West Palm Beach): Cory J. Ciklin, Dorian K. Damoorgian, Jonathan D. Gerber, Robert Marc Gross, Spencer D. Levine, Melanie G. May. 

5th District Court of Appeal (Daytona Beach): Jay Cohen, James A. Edwards, Brian Lambert, Vincent G. Torpy Jr. 

Qualifying for state offices began noon Monday and will continue until noon Friday.

The state’s appellate judges can serve virtually unlimited six-year terms, after appointment by the governor, until mandatory retirement at age 70.

They must, however, stand every six years for yes-or-no “merit retention votes.” No judge has lost a merit retention election since the system began in the 1970s.

The measure does not apply to trial judges. They must stand for election every six years, though few sitting judges are challenged.

Republicans in the state House this past session tried moving a measure (HB 197) that would have imposed term limits of 12 years for appellate judges.

It failed, but leadership promised that a similar bill would be back next year.

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at [email protected].


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