Okay, it’s that time again. Elections are around that twisted bend and maybe I should be ready for that nightly barrage of campaign commercials crying that a vote for one guy is like a vote for a 126% tax bracket and a vote for the other is to aid Voldemort in his unending quest to kill Harry Potter and perhaps a legion of precious pups.
I get it, that’s politics. But when our justice system gets political, that’s when we all need to worry. And lately it seems to get political way too often.
Yet again there’s a push to make our independent judiciary an election ballot item. This year, after we sift through the recognizable names at the top of the ticket, and then some of the unrecognizable names running for everything from county judge to county dog catcher, we may see an obscure question asking us to decide whether to change something institutional and important — our state constitution.
The current target: our state Supreme Court and the question of which governor will have the right to appoint replacements for three of the seven justices who are set to age into mandatory retirement right at the end of the next gubernatorial term.
Since the three justices on for retirement are said to be “left-leaning”, many Republicans (and a few Democrats) are pushing to amend the constitution so that the next elected governor gets to leave us with a parting “court-packing” gift by empowering that governor to appoint all three replacement justices right at the conclusion of the governor’s term.
Supporters of the amendment charge that it is necessary to avert a constitutional crisis regarding who makes the picks (though prior governors in the past have successfully united and made joint picks between incoming and outgoing governors). Opponents say it’s a jaw-dropping move to replace 3 “NO” votes with 3 “YES” votes and remove prickly constitutional roadblocks to the current Governor’s agenda should he be reelected in November.
I for one say, let’s leave the politicians to taxes, promises and the chase for Harry Potter – and leave the constitution alone.
Russel Lazega is an attorney and past president of the North Dade Bar Association. He is also the author of several of Florida’s most widely distributed legal textbooks on Florida Insurance Law and represents accident victims and consumers at war with their insurers. Contact: Russ@Lazegalaw.com.