Scott Quiet on JNC Squabble

By: Kathleen Haughney, The News Service of Florida
By: Kathleen Haughney, The News Service of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, January 18, 2011 --

New Gov. Rick Scott is staying mum on his next step in naming a judge to an appeals court opening after a judicial nominating commission slapped down his request for more nominees.

Earlier this month, Scott requested that the Judicial Nominating Commission for the 4th District Court of Appeal send him more than the four names it submitted to succeed Judge Gary Farmer, who resigned from the spot late last year.

The nine-member commission met, considered the governor’s request and then sent him back the same list of four nominees it approved initially.

Officials in Scott’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

The issue of a governor rejecting a JNC slate of candidates isn’t new. While governors appoint judges, they must do so from a slate of candidates first vetted and approved by a judicial nominating commission.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist got into a spat with the 5th District Court of Appeal’s JNC for more than a year after the commission forwarded him a slate of candidates that Crist said lacked diversity.

The commission and Crist went back and forth, with the JNC sticking to its initial list of candidates and Crist insisting on a new slate. Ultimately, Judge Robert Pleus, who was retiring from the 5th DCA and being replaced, sued Crist to force him make an appointment from slate of nominees provided by the commission.

The state Supreme Court applauded Crist’s attempts to diversify the court system, but said in its ruling on Pleus’ lawsuit that the constitution does not grant the governor the right to refuse to fill a vacancy on an appeals court.

The four nominees for the 4th DCA are Judge Peter D. Blanc, the chief judge of the 15th Judicial Circuit; Judge Burton Conner, a St. Lucie County circuit judge focusing on juvenile issues; Judge Jack Schramm Cox, a 15th circuit judge; and Judge Elizabeth T. Maass, also a 15th circuit court judge.

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