The Appointment of Three New Florida Supreme Court Justices
The Florida Supreme Court is the highest court in the state. Seven justices sit on this court and they control the direction that state law will take. The state court decide important matters such as family matters, criminal matters, probate, and certain contractual laws.
The appointment process of the seven justices on the Florida Supreme Court is very formal and is identical each time a vacancy occurs. While the governor has the final say on who to appoint, the Judicial Nominating Commission is largely influential in narrowing down the final contenders. This commission submits a list of six nominees to the governor, who then appoints a judge from the list.
The Current Vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court
The judges appointed to the supreme court serve six year terms. After which, the judges must appear on the ballot during the general election. Judges cannot serve beyond 70 years of age and are need to be admitted to practice law in the State of Florida for at least 10 years before their appointment. If a judge turns 70 more than halfway through their term, they may continue to serve out the rest of their term.
According to the above stated rules, the current siting Justices Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis, and Peggy Quince must leave the bench on January 7. This is also the last day of the two term Florida Governor Rick Scott is in office. Therefore, the Supreme Court recently contemplated the issue: who has the authority to appoint the next supreme court justices? Rick Scott or the next Florida Governor?
Supreme Court’s Ruling on the Decision
Last month, Florida Governor Rick Scott attempted to instruct the Judicial Nominating Commission to offer a list of potential nominees to fill the position. It’s customary for the commission to supply a list to the governor. However, the commission is independent of the governor and does not work for him.
The Supreme Court heard this case. The court discussed whether the governor has the authority to instruct the commission to deliver the list of potential nominees. They also contemplated whether he ultimately has the authority to appoint these upcoming vacancies. The supreme court’s order stated that “as the JNC is an independent body, it is not bound by Governor Scott’s deadlines.”
Consequences of this Florida Supreme Court Ruling
This ruling is highly controversial for the political parties in Florida. The current retiring justices compose a majority of the liberals that are on the court. Therefore, if Florida Republican nominee for governor wins, he will be able to shift the court to a more conservative supreme court. Consequently, if Andrew Gillium, the democrat nominee for Governor, defeats Mr. Desantis, then he can retain the liberal presence on the court.