Benjamin, Aaronson, Edinger & Patanzo, P.A.

Merit Retention Florida politics and court Justices

 It has happened before in other States and now it is rearing its head in the State of Florida. What we are talking about is an attempt by either political parties, or special interest groups in the forms of PAC’s or SuperPac’s to politicize and take control of the State’s Supreme Court.

 In the State of Florida, three Justices of the Supreme Court are up for what is called “merit retention”. The idea behind merit retention is to have a vehicle in which citizens of the State have the right to vote no confidence for a particular judge (justices) and thereby based upon a majority of those votes, not have that judge retained in office. In essence, it is to be used sparingly and only in those situations where a particular judge or justice, because of that judge’s actions no longer deserves to be in that trusted position.

 Obviously, what would make one vote to not retain a judge differs from person to person. No standards are set up, nor are there criteria to follow in order for one to make that negative vote. A series of gaffs; apparent non-responsibility in job performance; possibly judicial temperament and maybe even a series of unpopular decisions might be grounds or reason for someone to vote to not retain a specific judge or justice. However, never was it intended or even assumed that the basis for not retaining a particular judge or justice would be their party affiliation or who appointed them to the Bench.

 Yet, that is exactly what is going on in the State of Florida. Three Justices of the Florida Supreme Court, all appointed by a previous Democrat Governor are having a concerted campaign effort used against them to deny them merit retention. These special interest groups have latched onto one specific decision by the Florida Supreme Court that was overturned by the United States Supreme Court. It is hard to believe and it defies logic that such a ground swell of anti-retention forces would be, because of one decision, given the hundreds and hundreds of decisions that these three Justices have rendered during their illustrious careers.

 Rather, what is going on is a blatant attempt by conservatives and some Republicans to force out three Justices who have shown the independence not to walk in locked step with the Republican Governor and the Republican Legislature of the State of Florida. It is a blatant attempt to take away one of the cornerstones of our governmental system, that being a non-partisan and non-beholding to a political party judiciary.

 Yes, these three Justices were appointed by a Democrat Governor. Yet, there have been no allegations that they have in any way, shape or form been anything other than neutral and impartial Justices, leaving their party behind once they put on the black robe. Rather, this impartiality is not what those supporting their ouster want. Those supporting their ouster and requesting votes of non-retention for these Justices want a complete stranglehold on the Government of the State of Florida. One in which they control the legislature, the Governor and will have a Supreme Court that will yield to their whims.

 All of the various elections that you will be voting on are important to some degree or another. Certainly, the Presidential election captures the most attention. Yet, for those of us who live in the State of Florida as important or even more important than the Presidential election is the retention of these Supreme Court Justices. Whether you are Democrat or Republican or Independent, whether you are conservative or liberal or moderate, whether you are religious or non-religious; if you believe in a three independent branch of government system, one that has been with us for over two hundred years and has proved to be quite successful, then we urge you to vote YES for the retention of Justices Quince; Pariente and Lewis.

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