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E-Newsletter - October 2012

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The Law Review

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Upcoming Merit Retention Vote


Merit retention is a system of selecting Justices established by the voters when they amended the Florida Constitution in 1976. Under merit retention, the Governor appoints new Justices from a list of 3 – 6 names submitted by a Judicial Nominating Commission. Once appointed, Justices eventually must face the voters in a "yes" or "no" vote as to whether they should remain on the bench. New Justices face their first merit retention vote in the next general election that occurs more than one year after their appointment.

If retained, the Justice serves a six-year term beginning in early January following the merit retention election. The Justices then will again face an up or down vote in the general election occurring just before the six-year term expires.

If not retained in office, the Justices will be replaced with those chosen by the Governor from a list of 3 – 6 names submitted by a Judicial Nominating Commission, which is composed of:

a. Three members appointed by the Board of Governors of the Florida Bar from among Florida Bar members who are actively engaged in the practice of law with offices within the territorial jurisdiction of the affected court, district or circuit;
b. Three electors who reside in the territorial jurisdiction of the court or circuit appointed by the governor; and
c. Three electors who reside in the territorial jurisdiction of the court or circuit and who are not members of the bar of Florida, selected and appointed by a majority vote of the other six members of the Commission.

While the process means these members of the bench do not campaign and meet with voters in a traditional sense, merit retention has served Florida well. It has provided a measure of insulation from the political pressures which might distract these officials from carrying out their duties based solely on how they see points of law.

The three Florida Supreme Court justices facing a retention vote in November are:

  • BARBARA J. PARIENTE (Took office in 1997)
  • R. FRED LEWIS (Took office in 1999)
  • PEGGY A. QUINCE (Took office in 1999)

Many people believe that the justices are under assault by conservative groups who want to re-make the court to take unrivaled control of all three branches of government. This is a dangerous attempt to politicize the state's highest court and deliver new seats for Gov. Rick Scott to fill.

Please become aware of the current climate facing our judiciary and come to an informed decision before voting next month. We also ask that you advise your clients of this matter.

MARC A. KAUFMAN & ASSOCIATES

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