In the state of Florida we have one truly independent branch of Government remaining- the Judiciary. In an era when lobbyists and special interests have free run of the Florida Legislature and Executive branch, the Supreme Court has in most cases continued to do its job independently and without partisan or political considerations. The Florida Supreme Court has routinely put a roadblock against the most extreme and illegal actions by the Republican led, and conservative dominated Legislature/Executive Branch.
The Republican Party of Florida this week decided to politicize the upcoming merit retention election. Here is the RPOF statement:
“This week, the RPOF executive board voted unanimously to oppose the retention of Supreme Court Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente, and Peggy Quince. While the collective evidence of judicial activism amassed by these three individuals is extensive, there is one egregious example that all Florida voters should bear in mind when they go to the polls on election day. These three justices voted to set aside the death penalty for a man convicted of tying a woman to a tree with jumper cables and setting her on fire. The fact that the United States Supreme Court voted, unanimously, to throw out their legal opinion, raises serious questions as to their competence to understand the law and serve on the bench, and demonstrates that all three justices are too extreme not just for Florida, but for America, too.”
The GOP cleverly picked one ruling to make their point about three excellent justices. The conservatives have gone further with a website dedicated to attacking the three justices. R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente, and Peggy Quince were all appointed between 1996 and 1998 by the late Governor Lawton Chiles. Each was highly recommended by the Florida Bar and has served with distinction on the court, preventing the extremist legislature who have failed to understand or respect Florida’s 1968 Constitution (nor take the time in many cases to understand the debates and process involved in drafting the document). With Florida citizens under attack from a group of elected officials who haven’t bothered to immerse themselves in the finer points of governing or understanding the state as a whole, the Supreme Court has been our only defense.
Former Rep. Dick Batchelor who formed Defend Justice from Politics correctly stated, “Republicans want to hi-jack the independence of the courts. Coupled with the Dean Cannon proposed constitutional amendment , it’s obvious that the Scott led radical republicans will stop at nothing to dictate to the courts,” he said. “The legislature wants to politicize the court so that it is no longer independent but the handmaiden of the republican legislature.”
While progressives focus on higher profile November elections, an eye must be kept affixed at this effort to circumvent the independence of the Judiciary in Florida.