Supreme Court Shake-Up?

By: Troy Kinsey Email
By: Troy Kinsey Email

Tallahassee, Florida- August 8, 2012

It was a highly unusual move in the middle of a high profile hearing before Florida's highest court.

The court will now take a ten-minute recess.

A ten-minute recess is odd enough, odder still when it turns into an hour.

But it's what happened during that recess back in April that's made three Florida Supreme Court justices the targets of a lawsuit.

They're accused of using court staff to notarize paperwork required for them to qualify for the november ballot.

The recess was called only an hour before the deadline to turn that paperwork in.

Today the suit went before a Leon County judge, with the plaintiffs arguing the justices abused their offices and ought to be kicked off the ballot.

"The question is, did these justices violate and commit either fraud or criminal acts in the process of creating these documents, and we believe that that question should be fully vetted," said attorney Shannon Gessling.

Which is exactly what Judge Terry Lewis did in dismissing the lawsuit, a ruling that's already being appealed.

Even if what the justices did wasn't illegal, the spectacle if it all may be what matters most.

The longer it continues, the more difficult their campaign to remain on the bench becomes.

A campaign that, unlike almost every one before it, is drawing organized opposition.

The justices' supporters say the lawsuit is an offshoot of that opposition, aimed at crafting a more conservative court.

Legal scholar Sandy D'Alemberte points out If the justices don't make it to the ballot, governor scott would get to pick their replacements.

"They've brought a political action that is without action, and the way we talk that is we talk about frivolous suits, and I have to say, quite frankly, I think this is very much a frivolous suit." said D'Almberte

It's a view one judge now agrees with, but the controversy is anything but over.

The legal fight continues, and the campaign to take out three of Florida's most powerful judges may have only just begun.

Two of the justices in line for a merit retention vote - Fred Lewis and Barbara Pariente - were appointed by democratic governor Lawton Chiles.

The third - Peggy Quince, was jointly appointed by Chiles and his successor, Jeb Bush.


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