A conservative Georgia-based group has filed a lawsuit asking Florida’s secretary of state to remove three state Supreme Court justices from a retention election ballot in the fall. The lawsuit was denounced by a spokeswoman for the justices’ campaigns as an orchestrated attack on the justices, riddled with falsehoods.
The Southeastern Legal Foundation filed the lawsuit on behalf of two Seminole County (Fla.) men. The foundation is a partner organization of the American Justice Partnership, according to the AJP Web site. A leading national spender on judicial elections, AJP is a creation of the National Association of Manufacturers.
Robin Rorapaugh, a spokeswoman for the justices’ campaigns, called the lawsuit “clearly a headline hunt,” according to a Miami Herald article. “Anyone can file false statements of facts and false statements of law in allegations just as this entity has in an organized attempt to besmirch the reputations of three Florida Supreme Court Justices,” she said.
The Florida retention election has begun to draw national attention (see Gavel Grab) for targeting of the three justices by conservative activists, who are unhappy about some state Supreme Court rulings. The Miami Herald article summarized recent developments this way:
“The lawsuit is the latest salvo in a protracted fight against the justices by conservative organizations and individuals opposed to some of the court’s most controversial rulings.”
A criminal investigation of actions by the three justices is under way. It focuses on the trio’s use of court employees to notarize last-minute paperwork for their retention election bids. A leading newspaper editorial recently blasted the investigation as a “political witch hunt” (see Gavel Grab) that was prompted by key Republicans upset over court rulings, and it said the challenged practice was actually commonplace.
The lawsuit alleges the justices violated the law by interrupting a court hearing in order to finish last-moment election paperwork.