Scott out to remove three Florida Supreme Court justices

Presidents, historically have appointed justices to the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts as well, with nomi- nees who share the same philosophical outlook toward government.

The same is true for the governors of our 50 states — Florida included. Having a court that is politically in tune with the elected official’s political ideology makes the creation and retention of new laws that much easier.

Florida Governor Rick Scott is taking the process one step farther and is attempting to find a technicality to remove three Florida Supreme Court jus- tices who were appointees of former Governor Lawton Chiles, a Democrat.

His targets are Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince and R. Fred Lewis — all of a liberal political persuasion. Behind the governor’s action is Restore Justice 2012, a Tea Party-backed conservative group.

Supreme Court justices are not elected by the voters of Florida. Rather, they are appointed by the governor. Our state constitution requires that all appointed judges must, once every six years, appear on the ballot for a “yes” or “no” retention vote. Part of the retention process calls for the appointed justices to complete the appropriate retention forms, which require the notarization of their signatures.

It seems that in the middle of the court’s deliberations on the redistricting of political boundaries, the three justices took a one hour break to complete the retention forms and be able to file them in a timely fashion. The forms were signed by the three justices and notarized by staff — salaried employees of the state.

The governor is considering calling for an investigation as to whether the three justices are guilty of a misdemeanor by having a salaried state employ notarize the forms, a non-governmental action, on state time.

The Miami Herald reported that Rep. Scott Plakon, a Republican, sent a letter to the governor asking for a probe. The governor is considering having the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigate their actions. Plakon in his letter to the governor pointed out that the three justices took what is a rare break in the middle of the court hearing to com- plete the forms.

Dan Stengle, an attorney working with the three justices on the completion of the retention forms, said that the use of state employees to notarize such forms is standard procedure and pointed out that during working hours Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justice Ricky Polston did the same in 2010. The difference is Chief Justice Canady is a Republican as well as is Justice Polston.

State law prohibits candidates for public office from using services of government staff “in the furtherance of his or her candi- dacy.” Notwithstanding, Stengle points out that the Division of Elections allows staff to notarize documents for candidates during working hours.

If Governor Scott persists in pursuing an investigation of Justices Pariente, Quince and Lewis, I would strongly recommend that he add the chief justice and Justice Polston to the list. After all what is good for Democrats is good for Republicans.

We appreciate your opinions on this column whether in agreement or disagreement. Please send your comments to (fax number) 305-662-6980 or email to letters@communitynewspapers.com. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of this newspaper , its editors or publisher .

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About

Kenneth has been writing a column for Community Newspapers since 1989 when he first wrote about the incorporation movement in UMSA (Unincorporated Municipal Services Area). His columns cover the political scene in Miami-Dade and Tallahassee. Educated at the Wharton School in Philadelphia, Kenneth has been a member of the banking/mortgage lending profession in Florida since 1962. Contact him at kbluh@americanbsm.com or 786-247-0547 where he manages American Bancshares Mortgage LLC’s Reverse Mortgage Department.


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