Rick Scott seeks another shot at screening Supreme Court nominees

florida supreme court chambers (Large)

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.

Michael Moline

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

One comment

  • Ryan

    November 1, 2018 at 11:49 pm

    As a Republican & small business owner in FL, Scott needs to stay away from our state.

Comments are closed.


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