Judge dismisses suit seeking removal of Fla. SC justices from ballot

Jessica M. Karmasek Aug. 16, 2012, 12:50pm




TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - A Leon County Circuit Court judge last week threw out a lawsuit requesting that three state Supreme Court justices seeking a "yes" or "no" from voters in November be removed from this fall's ballot.

Judge Terry Lewis dismissed the case Aug. 8, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

However, in his ruling, the judge noted that it was unlikely that the suit would stop there.

"We'll let the district court of appeal decide whether I'm right or not," Lewis said, the Sentinel reported.

The Southeastern Legal Foundation, a self-described "constitutional public interest law firm" based in Atlanta, which is representing the two plaintiffs in the case, told the newspaper that it would continue with the case -- to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.

"At this point, it appears there will be no consequences for them unless we can be victorious in the court of appeal or the (Florida) Supreme Court," executive director Shannon Goessling said of justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince.

The plaintiffs, Bernard Long and Veronco L. "Ron" Flores, both of Seminole County, filed their lawsuit against the justices June 25.

In their filing, they allege that Lewis, Pariente and Quince broke the law when they stopped a court hearing on a Senate redistricting plan so they could finish paperwork to qualify for the Nov. 6 ballot.

"The delay caused by the justices cost Florida taxpayers thousands of dollars in additional legal fees for private outside counsel who were forced to wait while the justices worked on their campaign documents," Long and Flores' lawsuit alleges.

"Upon information and belief, the justices campaigns have not reimbursed the State of Florida or any private litigant for their costs and expenses caused by the delay."

All three justices are up for a merit retention vote this fall.

Under a merit retention system, the governor appoints new justices from a list of three to six names submitted by the state's Judicial Nominating Commission. He or she then must select from the list.

Once appointed, justices eventually must face the voters in a "yes" or "no" vote as to whether they should remain on the bench.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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