Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Ballot Measures' Category

Editorial: No on Amendment 3


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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Commentary: Yes on Amendment 2


Amendment 2 “will establish a system for selecting judges that ensures that our appellate court judge or a Supreme Court justice will be independent, highly qualified and unbiased,” says Verna Wyatt, executive director of Tennessee Voices for Victims, in a commentary in The Daily Herald. (See Gavel Grab for background on Amendment 2.)

The amendment will reflect the federal judicial appointment system with both the executive and legislative branches having a hand in the process, but also include a retention election. According to the commentary, this creates a balance of a fair and independent judiciary that still remains accountable to the people.

Judges should be “held accountable to the people of Tennessee, not the best politicians who can raise the most money from special-interest groups,” the commentary says, “We don’t want our judges to be pressured to make rulings based on campaign contributions or politics.”


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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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Amendment 2 Vote: Tweak to Judicial Selection, or ‘Radical Change’?

Nashville Public Radio offers one of the most compelling headlines so far in media reporting on proposed Amendment 2: “Tennessee Voters Choose Between Tweaking Judicial Selection Or Setting Stage For Radical Change.”

The proposed constitutional amendment would change the way appellate judges are selected in Tennessee by adding a requirement for legislative confirmation after the governor makes an appointment. A judge seeking a new term still would run in a retention (up-or-down) election. Read more

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


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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Details of Ballot Item on Judicial Selection Aired in Tennessee

TennesseeAs news media ramp up coverage of a proposed constitutional amendment about judicial selection in Tennessee, more voters are getting exposed to details about the issue.

The revised system for choosing appellate judges would include gubernatorial appointment subject to legislative confirmation. It provides for retention (up-or-down) elections when judges seek a new term. It has received extensive bipartisan support (see Gavel Grab).

A Johnson City Press article outlined arguments wielded by supporters of the proposal, who do not want to see Tennessee switch to popular elections for choosing appellate judges. Then the article highlighted misgivings by some people about mandating legislative confirmation. Read more

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In Tennessee, Bipartisan Support for Judicial Selection Change

Voters across Tennessee are hearing support from bipartisan leaders for a proposed constitutional amendment that would change the way appellate judges are selected.

The Chattanoogan reported in extensive detail the reasoning outlined by former Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, before the Chattanooga Rotary Club for his backing of Amendment 2.  He described the measure as a means to prevent special interest groups from helping to elect judges who are sympathetic to them, and he said the proposal has backing across a wide political spectrum that includes the NAACP, hospitals and the Farm Bureau. had an article detailing advocacy for the proposed constitutional amendment by state Republican Rep. Jon Lundberg. “We do need some clarification to the constitution,” he said. Regarding the proposal, he explained, “It’s kind of like our founding fathers planned with a couple Read more

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