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Archive for the 'Judicial Nominations' Category

Time of Uncertainty for Pennsylvania Supreme Court

The sudden retirement this week of Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery, who was dragged down by a pornographic email scandal, and the upcoming age-required retirement of Chief Justice Ronald Castille will create two openings on the court to be filled temporarily by gubernatorial appointment.

All told, three open seats on the seven-member court will be up for election next year and a “stampede” of high court candidates is expected to run, the Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, Justice McCaffery’s retirement may leave the state Supreme Court without a tie-breaking vote for the rest of 2014.

There have been numerous calls for a switch to merit selection of top judges in the wake of the recent scandal (see Gavel Grab). In one of the latest, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial declared, “Where’s the merit? Another bad justice leaves the state’s top court/And it’s time to say good riddance to the system of electing judges in Pennsylvania.”

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More Commentary Seeks Rejection of Amendment 3 in Florida

Published opinion in Florida continues to pound away at a proposed constitutional amendment to allow an outgoing governor certain prospective appointments of judges.

“Floridians must reject the Legislature’s proposal to strip the power to appoint judges from the newly elected governor and give that power to an unaccountable lame-duck governor,” Howard L. Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, writes in a Tallahassee Democrat op-ed.

An Ocala Star Banner editorial says, “The constitution is clear about when appointments should occur and who should make them,” and it urges voters to reject Amendment 3 on Election Day. To learn more about the debate over Amendment 3, see Gavel Grab.

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Editorial: No on Amendment 3

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Floridians should vote no on Amendment 3, according to an editorial by the Sun Sentinel. (For background on the proposed constitutional amendment regarding judicial appointments, see Gavel Grab.)

The editorial bases its opinion on the 2006 state Supreme Court advisory opinion and the powers of the court’s chief justice. The opinion stated that the appointment power is clearly with the incoming governor. The chief justice also has the power to fill vacancies with other judges for a short period of time.

The three justices who would be affected by the amendment were opposed in the last election cycle by the Republican Party, which controls the executive and legislative branches in Florida. The editorial concludes by calling Amendment 3 the “latest politically motivated attempt to manipulate the state’s courts…”

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Former Senator: Don't Permit 'Lame-Duck' Stacking of Court

VillalobosFlorida’s proposed Amendment 3 “opens the door for lame-duck governors in the future to stack the court on their way out the door,” former state Sen. Alex Villalobos writes in a Miami Herald opinion.

“It is just the latest in a series of outrageous proposals aimed at seizing partisan control over our fair and impartial courts,” writes Villalobos, who served as Republican majority leader of the Senate. He parts ways with Republicans currently in the state legislature who have pushed for the proposed constitutional amendment. At the same time, he does not mention party affiliation in his op-ed.

The amendment would allow outgoing governors to make certain prospective judicial appointments. In urging a “no” vote on Election Day, Villalobos adds, “Floridians across the political spectrum have consistently agreed on the importance of keeping partisan politics out of our courts.”

Villalobos belongs to the Justice at Stake board of directors. He did not write the commentary in his JAS role.

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Commentary: Amendment 3 'Looks Like a Partisan Power Grab'

florida-state-flagAdd Paula Dockery, a columnist and former Republican member of the Florida legislature, to critics calling Amendment 3 on the Florida ballot this fall a bid to enable political court-packing.

At Florida Today, Dockery rips into the proposed constitutional amendment to allow an outgoing governor certain prospective appointments of judges, calling it “an unnecessary and divisive move that looks like a partisan power grab intended to stack the court.” The measure was pushed by Republicans in the state legislature.

“While legislative and governor races are expected to be highly partisan, voters correctly expect the judicial branch to be nonpartisan,” Dockery explains. “Justice for all requires justice to be blind.”

“Regardless of who is governor, the incoming governor should have the responsibility of judicial appointments and should be held accountable for his or her choices. How can you hold someone accountable who has left office?” Read more

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On Amendment 3: 'Future of the Florida Supreme Court at Stake'

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Amendment 3 is “a bizarre ‘solution’ searching for a non-existent problem,” a Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial quotes former state Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead as saying. (For background on the proposed constitutional amendment regarding judicial appointments, see Gavel Grab.)

The editorial cites a Florida Supreme Court advisory opinion in 2006 stating that the terms of judges unable to stand for retention will expire in January following the general election. This places the timeline for replacement appointments firmly in the jurisdiction of the incoming governor if one is newly elected, according to the editorial. Without any actual “confusion over the expiration of judicial terms,” the editorial recommends a “no” vote on the amendment.

WTSP 10 News reports that Republicans are calling the amendment necessary to avert a potential constitutional crisis, while Democrats are calling it “an attempted court-packing power grab.” A WTXL TV report about the amendment quoted former state Sen. Alex Villalobos as saying, “We think that this is politicizing the way that the court works.” Villalobos, a board member of Justice at Stake, did not voice a position as a JAS board member.

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Editorial Blasts 'Political Gamesmanship' in Ballot Item

As debate continues in Florida over a proposed constitutional amendment involving judicial appointments, a Bradenton Herald editorial has blasted it as outright “political gamesmanship” and urged its rejection.

“GOP lawmakers invented a pending ‘constitutional crisis’ and then devised a solution” that is embodied in the ballot measure, the editorial said. The proposal would allow an outgoing governor to make certain prospective appointments of judges, including appointments to the state Supreme Court. The editorial questioned its reasoning and necessity. Read more

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Latest Editorials Oppose Ballot Measure in Florida

Florida_quarter,_reverse_side,_2004Florida voters should reject a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow an outgoing governor certain prospective appointments of judges, two more editorials have declared.

The ballot measure conceived by the legislature that “would give outgoing governors carte blanche to pack the court on their way out the door is unacceptable,” a Tampa Bay Times editorial said. “Amendment 3 is one more legislative attempt to push partisanship into the court system, and Florida voters should reject it.”

A (Lakeland) Ledger editorial said there is plenty of time for a 2017 session of the Constitution Revision Commission to correct any ambiguities existing in the law, and that for now, “voters should take care not to throw away their own power to hold a governor accountable for one of his most important decisions.” Read more

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Editorial Scorches Florida Amendment as Assault on Courts

florida-state-flagBy voting no on a proposed constitutional amendment about judicial appointments, an Orlando Sentinel editorial declares, “Floridians can repudiate this latest politically motivated attempt to manipulate the state’s courts.”

The proposed amendment would allow an outgoing governor to make prospective judicial appointments to fill certain vacancies that take effect on inauguration day. The editorial slams it as reflecting “crude power politics” and representing another in a series of “misguided attempts to assert more control over the courts” by legislators in Tallahassee.

While supporters of the proposed amendment say it is needed to avert a potential constitutional crisis due to confusion about existing law, the editorial asserts that a Florida Supreme Court advisory opinion in 2006 clarifies that an incoming governor has the relevant appointment power. The editorial says an amendment is not needed. Read more

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Important Judicial Appointment Measure is Widely Overlooked

A proposed constitutional amendment about naming certain Florida judges will be one of three to come before state voters in November, and it “could have the most impact on state policy” but is widely overlooked.

A WFSU report offered that take on Amendment 3, which  would allow an outgoing governor to make prospective appointments of judges to fill vacancies that occur on inauguration day. Some critics say it would allow Florida’s next governor to pack the state Supreme Court by filling three vacancies that are expected to take effect on inauguration day in 2019. Read more

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