All of Florida’s attorneys–not just criminal trial and appellate attorneys–have been hearing for a while now that several of the Justices on the Florida Supreme Court are under attack. Supreme Court Justices Pariente, Quince, and Lewis are all up for merit retention votes in November 2012. Judges Carole Taylor and Burton Conner from the Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach are also up for merit retention votes in November. According to the reports being circulated among the members of the Florida and Palm Beach County Bars, political groups, PACs, have been formed to raise massive amounts of money in anticipation of the November elections. According to the reports, the organizers of the PACs are not based in Florida.
Why all the fuss, you ask? Several years ago, something similar happened in another State (a mid-western State, I believe). A large PAC was formed, and the PAC raised massive amounts of money to run political attack ads against several of the State Supreme Court justices. The justices who were attacked all lost re-election.
Florida’s Supreme Court Justices are in a tough spot. Although they are elected officials, they are precluded from actually going out and running a formal campaign. They are also precluded from saying many things that a traditional candidate would say. In other words, they can be attacked, but cannot fight back. That’s where we come in. If you are Florida lawyer, you know that the merit retention vote is about one question: whether the Justice or Judge should retain his or her judicial position based on his or her ability to render decisions on a fair and impartial basis, not whether you as a lawyer agree with those decisions. As a citizen of the State of Florida, everyone has the responsibility to make an informed choice at the election booths in November. In addition to reading about your local candidates, you should take a few minutes to read about Florida’s merit retention system here.