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Cannon Won't Push Major New Court Reforms

By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida
By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Nov. 3, 2011 -

David Royse, The News Service of Florida

House Speaker Dean Cannon said Wednesday he won't push in the coming legislative session for the major changes to the judiciary that he pursued last year when he sought to ask voters to split the state Supreme Court and increase its size.

Lawmakers passed a proposed amendment that will be on the 2012 ballot seeking to require Senate confirmation for justices, but it fell far short of what Cannon had sought to do, which was to split the court into civil and criminal parts and expand its membership.

Speaking to journalists at The Associated Press annual legislative planning day at the Capitol, Cannon was asked if he will try again in the coming year to push a major overhaul of the judiciary.

"I don't think so, not to the same degree as last session," said Cannon, R-Winter Park.

Cannon said there may be some smaller issues that lawmakers may deal with, including possibly some issues related to the process for nominating candidates for judgeships. But, he said, "I don't intend to pursue at this point any further constitutional-type judicial reforms."

The amendment that lawmakers did pass earlier this year and that will be before voters next year would subject Supreme Court justices to Senate confirmation before they can take the bench, a departure from the current practice where the governor chooses a candidate from a list provided by a nominating commission and the justice needs no further confirmation.

Cannon has discussed openly his dissatisfaction with a judiciary that has, he believes, sometimes overstepped its bounds in removing legislatively proposed constitutional amendments from the ballot before voters could weigh in on them.

In addition to the amendment lawmakers have already put on the 2012 ballot calling for Senate confirmation of justices, the Legislature also put a line item in the budget that called for a study on the workload of the Supreme Court separated by civil and criminal cases, which was the justification Cannon used earlier this year in seeking to split the court. That had led to thoughts the effort might come back in the coming session.

But Cannon said during his remarks on Wednesday that the House will have its hands full with a budget shortfall.

It also is a redistricting year, which will take up a considerable amount of energy in the Legislature and proponents of expanded gambling have already begun a push for a bill to allow major casino resorts.


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