Judicial nominating process questioned

Published: Jan. 8, 2020 at 4:32 PM EST
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By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service

January 8, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Governor Ron DeSantis could make his fourth and fifth appointments to the nine-member Florida Supreme Court as early as next week.

A panel appointed by the governor is expected to send at least six names to the governor after meeting all weekend, but critics of the process warn there is a danger the court is being politicized.

32 people, mostly judges, will be interviewed this weekend to fill two open seats at Florida’s Supreme Court.

A nine-member panel will make the selection.

“All nine of the members are ultimately appointed by the governor, but four of the nine are appointed by governor from recommendations from recommendations made to him from the Florida Bar,” said Daniel Nordby, Chair of the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission.

It hasn’t always been done this way.

In the mid 1970’s, the elected high court was rocked with scandal.

Appellate judges became appointed.

Then-Governor Reubin Askew created a commission to make recommendations.

He appointed three members, the Florida Bar named three, and together the two groups appointed another three.

It had been called a model for the nation, but in 2001, all of the appointments went back to the governor.

“Unfortunately, in recent years, it has really become a very politicized process,” said Damien Filer with Progress Florida.

Governor Ron DeSantis has made no secret what he is looking for in a judge.

“The Judiciary, while important, must be limited,” said DeSantis in his inaugural address.

But critics worry concentrating too much power in the governor can have consequences.

“We could see what would be an all out ban on abortion here in Florida, even it Roe V Wade stands at the federal level,” said Filer.

Democrats have filed legislation that would return nominating commissions to three Gubernatorial appointments, three Florida Bar appointments, with the six naming three more people.

It is unlikely to get a hearing in a GOP controlled legislature.

Supporters of the Governor appointing all nine to the nominating commission are quick to point out that he’s elected and can be held accountable, while members of the Florida Bar are not.

Those making the recommendation have only one concern.

“We’re looking for people with highest level of integrity, the intellectual ability to do the job, and judicial temperament,” said Nordby.

While the governor will name two more justices to the court, the replacements are for judges he appointed last January and who have been elevated to a Federal appeals court by the President.