You and your writing staff are to be commended on what I consider to be one of the best blogs I have had the occasion to read. I am the Tallahassee Bureau Chief for the Tampa Bay Times and I read many blogs. Your writer's commentary today on the firestorm brewing up here in the state capital is spot on. Keep up the good work.
Tampa Bay Times
THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:
The Florida Supreme Court JNC met today and voted to interview all 59 applicants. The interviews will take place in Miami on November 3rd and 4th and in Tampa on November 8th and 9th. The JNC will then meet on the evening of the 9th and into the 10th, if necessary, with the plan of sending the names of the finalists to the Governor on November 10th.
SO, YOU WANT TO BE A FLORIDA SUPREME COURT JUSTICE .......
On Monday, January 7, 2019, a convergence of significant events will take place in Tallahassee, Florida. If you thought the effects of Hurricane Michael were going to have a major effect on the surrounding community for a long time, the Hurricane that I speak of will be one hundred times stronger and will last for one hundred years longer.
You see, on that date, Governor Rick Scott’s term concludes at the end of the day on that first Monday in January. And, at the exact same time, three members of the Florida Supreme Court will retire, including Justices Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis, and Peggy Quince. It is also important to note that, the new Governor’s term begins on "the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January"; in this case that means on Tuesday, January 8th.***
Now, anybody that follows the decisions of the current make-up of this Supreme Court, and the one immediately before it knows what all this means. Until December 31, 2016, an overwhelming majority of the controversial decisions of the court were split 5-2; the five voting together included Pariente, Lewis, and Quince, along with Justice’s Labarga and Perry. When Justice Perry retired on the last day of 2016, Governor Scott appointed Justice Alan Lawson to replace him. For most of the past 21 months, the overwhelming majority of the controversial decisions of the court have been a 4-3 vote, with conservative Lawson joining the side of Justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston.
So, as you can see, with the departure of Pariente, Lewis, and Quince, the three most liberal justices on the court, a win by gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis next month would result in a dramatic shift of the court to the right with a resulting 6-1 right wing majority. On the other hand, a win by candidate Andrew Gillum, would result in the court maintaining a razor thin 4-3 lean to the left.
Now that you understand what is at stake, understand that Governor Rick Scott, (whose successor will be elected on Tuesday, November 6, 2018), has decided that he, not the Governor-Elect, will appoint the next three justices to succeed Pariente, Lewis, and Quince.
That’s right, a lame duck Governor, who is term limited, has decided that, rather than let the voters of the great State of Florida decide, through their choice at the ballot box, whom between DeSantis and Gillum should choose the three new justices, Scott will do that for them.
*** Note that, in the recent past, Governors Jeb Bush, Charlie Crist, and Rick Scott, all took the oath of office well before the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January so as to assume gubernatorial duties immediately on the first day of their respective terms.
In order to head off this constitutional crisis of Category Four proportion, last year, the League of Women Voters filed suit against Rick Scott. The League asked the Court to issue a writ of quo warranto against Governor Rick Scott prohibiting him from "filling any judicial vacancies on Florida's appellate courts that occur due to terms expiring in January 2019." The League's basis for filing the petition was Governor Scott's December 2016 announcement of his intent to appoint the replacements for three justices of the Court.
In their opinion issued on December 14, 2017, LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF FLORIDA, et al., Petitioners, v. RICK SCOTT, GOVERNOR, Respondent. (No. SC17-1122), the Florida Supreme Court ruled, by a vote of 6-1, that the issue presented was not ripe for consideration, and the Court dismissed the petition. The lone dissenter was Justice Lewis. The opinion can be read here.
Fast forward to September of 2018. On September 12, 2018, at the direction of Governor Scott and his legal counsel, the Florida Supreme Court’s JNC announced that they were accepting applications to fill the three upcoming supreme court vacancies as the result of the mandatory retirement of Justices Pariente, Lewis, and Quince due to all three reaching the age of 70. The application deadline was set for October 8, 2018.
On September 20, 2018, the League of Women Voters filed their new Petition Quo Warranto against Governor Scott. League of Women Voters, et al. v. Hon. Rick Scott, et al., (SC18-1573). The Docket can be read here.
On September 21, the JNC met to discuss retaining legal counsel to respond to the Petition. They hired former Justice Raoul Cantero. The League of Women Voters is repped by Former Speaker of the House John Mills.
By the deadline of October 8th, there were a total of 59 applicants for the three seats. Two of the seats are At-Large while one seat must be filled by a resident of the 3rd DCA jurisdiction (Miami-Dade and Monroe County).
On October 11th, the JNC will meet to discuss the 59 applicants and to consider and select applicants for interviews and further consideration to fill the three positions of Florida Supreme Court Justice.
For many voters around the State, the issues of jobs, the economy, the environment, health care, and immigration dominate the landscape. But for many in the legal community, there will be no more important decision made over the next decade than the one that involves the replacement of the three retiring justices.
As stated above, the Florida Supreme Court JNC received a total of 59 applications for the three open seats. Of those, a total of 11 are residents of the 3rd DCA. The applicants for that seat include four judges currently on the 3rd DCA:
Judge Barbara Lagoa
Judge Norma Lindsey
Judge Robert Luck
Judge Ed Scales
and two Circuit and one County Court Judge:
Judge William Thomas
Judge Daryl Trawick
Judge Alex Bokor
The remaining applicants include 12 DCA judges, 27 Circuit Court Judges, and 1 County Court Judge along with 12 private counsel.
We will be closely watching the current Florida Supreme Court as they review the legal briefs and then render a decision on this latest Petition for Quo Warranto filed by the League of Women’s Voters. (As of the posting of this story, the Court has not yet agreed to set the case for Oral Argument).
Anyone care to guess how they will rule this time .......
CAPTAIN OUT .......