Gavel Grab

Commentary: It’s About Power, Not Judicial Accountability, in Florida

A proposal to impose term limits on appellate and Florida Supreme Court judges “is just the latest in a series of naked power grabs” by those intent on reducing judicial independence, two defenders of fair and impartial courts write in the Florida Politics blog.

The opinion comes from Eric Lesh of Lambda Legal and Mark Ferrulo, executive director of Progress Florida. They are members of the Florida Access to Justice Project. The House recently approved the proposal but its prospects in the state Senate are uncertain (see Gavel Grab). Read more

facebooktwitterlinkedintumblrmail Comments are off for this post

Florida House Passes Proposal for Judicial Term Limits

A proposal for term limits on appellate and state Supreme Court judges narrowly won approval in the Florida House, while one newspaper forecast it “faces a likely dead end in the Senate.”

The proposal was approved 76-38 in the House, with 72 votes needed to approve a constitutional amendment, according to The Associated Press. Meanwhile, MyPalmBeachPost said little interest has been shown in the plan in the state Senate and it likely will languish there.

During House debate, Democratic Rep. Jose Rodriguez said that the proposal hinted of retaliation against court decisions that displeased certain legislators. “[F]or many of us, this has a flavor of retribution,” he said. Read more

facebooktwitterlinkedintumblrmail Comments are off for this post

House Panel Approves Florida Judicial Term Limits Bill

A proposal for term limits on appellate and state Supreme Court judges was approved by the Florida House Judiciary Committee along party lines, with one Democrat calling it “the worst bill moving through the Legislature” this season.

Republican backers have called the proposal a means to achieve more accountability of top judges, according to The News Service of Florida, while Democratic critics portray it as retaliation against court rulings that have displeased legislators.

The board of governors of The Florida Bar opposes the bill. You can learn more about it from Gavel Grab. The measure now goes to the full House.

facebooktwitterlinkedintumblrmail Comments are off for this post

A Judge, Baseball Tickets, and Impartiality: Do They Mix?

Florida’s Judicial Qualifications Commission does a good job overall of weeding out judges who might have character flaws or totally bad judgment, Herald-Tribune columnist Tom Lyon writes.

Lyon wonders, then, what will happen in a complaint brought by the commission against Manatee County Circuit Judge John Lakin. He reports  that Lakin is accused of receiving choice Rays baseball tickets from a law firm, which was handling a case before him. The case ultimately went the law firm’s way, after the judge overturned a jury verdict. Moreover, “Lakin allegedly got some of them after asking his judicial assistant to seek the tickets from the law firm.” Read more

facebooktwitterlinkedintumblrmail Comments are off for this post

House Committee Approves Florida Judicial Term Limits Bill

A Florida House Committee voted 13-6 on Thursday in support of a proposed constitutional amendment to impose term limits on appellate judges.

As the House Appropriations Committee divided along party lines, Republican backers contended the measure would bring more accountability to judges, and they said an existing retention (up-or-down) election system is falling short of providing accountability.

Democratic leaders, in turn, questioned whether the proposal is more closely targeted at retaliating against judges with whom Republican legislators disagree. Sunshine State News noted that conservative legislators have been repeatedly thwarted by the state’s highest court on redistricting and other issues, when the court found the legislature’s action unconstitutional. Read more

facebooktwitterlinkedintumblrmail Comments are off for this post

Political ‘Power Grab’ Seen in Judicial Term Limits Proposal

state.seal-floridaA group called the Florida Access to Justice Project is the latest to register its strong opposition to a proposal for judicial term limits in Florida.

“This term-limit proposal is another transparent attempt at a power grab by politicians who want to weaken our courts,” said Progress Florida’s Mark Ferrulo in a statement on behalf of the Florida Access to Justice Project.

“Partisans in Tallahassee have been attacking our court system for years now,” Ferrulo said, according to the Florida Politics web site. “Fortunately, the voters of Florida have seen through and rejected their efforts every time. We don’t need to limit the terms of the judges on our highest courts: We need experienced, seasoned jurists on the bench, and we need to keep politics out of our judicial system.” Read more

facebooktwitterlinkedintumblrmail Comments are off for this post

Former Appellate Judges Oppose Judicial Term Limits in Florida

Florida_quarter,_reverse_side,_2004Four former appellate judges voice strong opposition in a Daily Business review op-ed to a proposed constitutional amendment for imposing judicial term limits upon Florida judges.

“The proposal would force experienced judges out of office even though they are doing a good job, produce a harmful revolving door in the judiciary and make it extremely difficult to recruit judges,” they write. “No other state in the country does this, and Florida should not adopt this detrimental proposal.” They also say it would effectively rob voters of their right to choose judges.

The authors are Gerald B. Cope Jr., who served on the Third District Court of Appeal; Joseph W. Hatchett, who served on the Florida Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit; James E. Joanos, who served on the First District Court of Appeal; and William Van Nortwick, who served on the First District Court of Appeal.

Under the proposal, state Supreme Court justices and judges of district courts of appeal would be barred from seeking retention to a new term after they have served two full consecutive terms.  See Gavel Grab for background. The Daily Business Review article is available by Google searching, and is titled, “4 Ex-Judges Oppose Term Limits for Florida Appellate Bench.”

facebooktwitterlinkedintumblrmail Comments are off for this post

Florida Launches Plan for Better Public Understanding of Courts

At a time judges in Florida are facing a proposal in the legislature for judicial term limits, it’s “fortuitous” timing that the state’s highest court has approved a five-year plan for enhancing public understanding of how the courts work, a columnist writes.

In The Tallahassee Democrat, Bill Cotterell says the plan is titled “Delivering the Message,” and it incorporates “suggestions from judges, reporters and editors, court public information officers and other staff across the state.”

Cotterell says the goal of “enhancing public trust and confidence” in the courts can be challenging when this particular branch of government, in order to do its job, sometimes must dissatisfy the customer. “Governors and legislators can do things they know are unconstitutional, but politically popular. Judges often have to do just the opposite, upholding the rule of law when we’d really like to just whack somebody,” he explains. Read more

facebooktwitterlinkedintumblrmail Comments are off for this post

Opinion: Judicial Term Limits Idea ‘Smacks of Retaliation’

A proposed constitutional amendment to impose judicial term limits in Florida “smacks of retaliation” by legislators unhappy with court rulings and resembles “a solution in search of a problem,” a Palm Beach Post editorial declares.

“We offer an easier answer for our politicians looking to avoid conflicts with the courts: Stop gerrymandering districts and passing laws that are plainly unconstitutional,” the editorial says. Last week, the Florida Supreme Court signed off on a new congressional redistricting map, and some legislators voiced their disagreement.

Citing a recent history of legislators’ assaults on state courts, the editorial concludes, “Florida legislators should stop these wasteful attacks on the courts and concentrate on doing their own jobs. Now there is a problem worth fixing.”

facebooktwitterlinkedintumblrmail Comments are off for this post

Backlog in Cases Noted as Judicial Nominee Awaits Senate Action

CapitolflagPresident Obama nominated Mary Barzee Flores for a U.S. district court judgeship in Florida in February after her name was forwarded to the White House by Sens. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican. However, Rubio now faces criticism over holding up action on her nomination, according to The Tampa Bay Times.

Her nomination isn’t on the agenda for the final scheduled meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee this year, and Rubio has not submitted the “blue slip” that would permit her nomination to come up for consideration there. His office says the senator is awaiting completion of the committee’s own vetting procedures. Read more

facebooktwitterlinkedintumblrmail Comments are off for this post

Next Page »