FL: Partisan forces strike hot in merit retention fight

By Yaël Ossowski | Florida Watchdog

ST. PETERSBURG — Three Florida Supreme Court justices will have their fates decided by voters this fall, and it is drawing the ire of a growing number of political forces in the Sunshine State.

Attention to the issue was first peaked by the involvement of the Republican Party of Florida on Friday which, for the first time, offered statements supporting the removal of Justices R. Fred LewisBarbara Pariente and Peggy Quince.

Justices in Florida are chosen by the governor, but only from a list of nominees put forward by the Judicial Qualifications Commission. Every six years following that appointment, judges are put through the merit retention process, allowing the voting public to decide whether to keep judges on the bench.

“The collective evidence of judicial activism amassed by these three individuals is extensive,” RPOFL spokeswoman Kristen McDonald said in a statement.

She cited the decision of the court to put aside the death penalty for a man convicted of setting a woman on fire after tying her to a tree with car booster cables.

“The fact that the United States Supreme Court voted, unanimously, to throw out their legal opinion, raises serious questions as to their competence to understand the law and serve on the bench, and demonstrates that all three justices are too extreme not just for Florida, but for America, too,” McDonald said in the statement.

Similarly, the Florida Bar Association has encouraged voters to become informed on the issue, but instead tacitly supports retaining the judges so as to “keep politics out of court decisions,” president Gwynne Young told theDaytona Beach News-Journal.

Young was touting the very line used by many groups in the state, who have lined up to condemn the group Restore Justice 2012, a nonprofit voter education group warning of “activist judges” on its website and in promotional ads.

“Pariente, Quince and Lewis have made decisions that negatively impact issues important to families and taxpayers, yet the Bar wants to stress how polite they are,” wrote Restore Justice president Jesse Phillips in an Orlando Sentinel op-ed on Sept. 19.

Phillips said he was encouraged by the Republican Party’s new-found interest in the merit retention election.

“They’re responding to the grassroots, that really encouraged me,” Phillips told Florida Watchdog. “It’s nice to see some headway we’ve made.”

He told Florida Watchdog that the Florida Supreme Court “remains one of the most activist courts in the nation,” a point he reiterated in his commentary along with several specific criticisms of the judges’ decisions.

Phillips cites the mounting protests of critics who have come to defense of the judges without examining their records in-depth.

Read more: Florida Watchdog

Yaël Ossowski is a journalist, writer, and consumer advocate. His writings and interviews have appeared in newspapers, magazines, and online outlets across the world in multiple languages. He is the founder and editor of Devolution Review and deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center. He was previously a national investigative reporter at Watchdog.org. He has a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) from the CEVRO Institute in Prague, and a Bachelor's in Political Science from Concordia University, Montreal. He currently splits his time between Vienna, Austria and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Website https://yael.ca
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