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Report: Fla. AG refuses to endorse GOP position on SC justices

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Oct 10, 2012


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is refusing to back the state Republican Party in its decision to oppose the retention of three Florida Supreme Court justices.

The state's top lawyer told The Associated Press Tuesday she wasn't "going to get involved in this," pointing out that she has pending cases before the high court.

Last month, the Republican Party of Florida's executive board voted unanimously to oppose the retention of Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince, calling them "too extreme."

"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," Party spokeswoman Kristen McDonald 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 next month.

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.

Florida's Democratic Party has called the politicization of the Court by the state GOP and Gov. Rick Scott, also a Republican, "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," Party Chairman Rod Smith said in a statement last month.

"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."

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

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