By Yaël Ossowski | Florida Watchdog
TAMPA— Ceding to the hot temptations of democracy, three Florida judges will shed their traditional black robes for chance to enter the political boxing ring of merit retention elections this November, putting their records on the bench up for popular scrutiny at the ballot box.
The measure, adopted by a 1970s era amendment to the state Constitution approved by a statewide referendum, requires that justices appointed by the governor undergo an election on the merit of their time in office every six years.
The judges facing merit retention vote in 2012 are Justices R. Fred Lewis,Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince, all members of the state Supreme Court.
For Sunshine State voters, the justices’ futures will be decided by a simple “yes” or “no” vote on the ballot beside each judge’s name.
“In 33 years, Florida voters have never rejected a merit retention candidate,” saidJoseph Little, a professor at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law.
Despite the historical consistency of a “yes” vote, there is a brewing storm of grassroots activists who have taken up the issue of merit retention as a popular campaign.
One group, Restore Justice 2012, was founded in August 2010 to combat the onslaught of “judicial activism,” according to its website. That activism, the group claims, has become “one of the greatest threats to freedom that exists in our country and state.”
“We have one of the most activist courts in the nation,” said Jesse Phillips, president of Restore Justice 2012, which he describes as a nonprofit group formed to educate voters about the retention election.
Read more: Florida Watchdog