Controversy unfolds after conversation between Supreme Court Justices overheard

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By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service
November 9, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Three of Florida's seven Supreme Court Justices are set to retireon what will be Governor Rick Scott's last day in office, and the court was asked last week to decide who will make the next appointments.

Now, a conversation on the bench after the hearing was over is creating controversy.

As lawyers were leaving the Supreme Court after arguing about the governor's power to appoint future justices, Chief Justice Gorge Labarga leaned over to Justice Barbara Pariente, not knowing his microphone was still on.

Chief Labarga allegedly said, “He can’t be there. Panuccio…Izzy Reyes on there. He’ll listen to me.”

While the audio was not completely clear, the two appear to be discussing a list of nominees to the Judicial Nominating Commission, the group that will name potential replacements for three judges retiring in January.

The reference to Panuccio is Jesse Panuccio, a former lawyer for Governor Scott. Izzy Reyes is a member of the nominating commission.

Governor Rick Scott this week asked for the court documents and the audio recording. Scott stated, “Let’s find out what was going on. We expect our judges to be impartial, we expect them to simply do their job.

"We’ve done a records request to see what document they were talking about, what they were talking about, so it’s incumbent to everybody to understand what was being discussed,” Scott continued.

When Scott was asked what he think happened, he replied, “We’ll find out once we see the documents.”

The governor could ask the judges to disqualify themselves from the case. A spokesman for Rick Scott said, “Our office is evaluating the best path forward and all available options.”

All of the material Governor Scott requested was turned over this week, according to an email from the Supreme Courts Public Information Officer.

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