Fla. GOP against retention of three SC justices

Jessica M. Karmasek Sep. 25, 2012, 10:50am





TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - Florida's Republican Party last week voted to oppose the retention of three state Supreme Court justices, calling them "too extreme."

Republican Party of Florida spokeswoman Kristen McDonald said in a statement Friday that the party's executive board voted unanimously to oppose the retention of Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince.

"While the collective evidence of judicial activism amassed by these three individuals is extensive, there is one egregious example that all Florida voters should bear in mind when they go to the polls on election day. These three justices voted to set aside the death penalty for a man convicted of tying a woman to a tree with jumper cables and setting her on fire," she said in a statement.

"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."

All three justices, who were appointed by former Gov. Lawton Chiles, a Democrat, are up for a merit retention vote in November.

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.

The state's Democratic Party issued its own statement, in response to the RPOF, Friday.

In it, party chairman Rod Smith called the politicization of the state's high court by Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, and the state's GOP "wrong."

"It's wrong for Florida, wrong for the voters and wrong for the administration of justice in a state and nation that prides itself on our Constitution, favors a system of checks and balances and a fair and impartial judiciary," he said.

"Republicans and Democrats came together to create a merit selection and retention process aimed at making the courts accountable to the people -- not to the special interests that run Tallahassee.

"This move is nothing more than a partisan power grab by this very unpopular governor and his party, who have seen their Tea Party agenda fail to pass muster time and again in the courts."

Meanwhile, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said Monday she will not take sides on the issue -- at least not yet.

Bondi, the state's top lawyer and a Republican herself, told The Associated Press she had not read the GOP's statement and could not comment on whether she agreed with her party's comments.

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

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