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Florida Supreme Court Squares Off With Governor

By William Vogeler, Esq. on October 17, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

While one court drama played out in Washington, another one unfolded in Florida.

No, we're not talking about the hanging chads episode. That soap opera ended a decade ago.

In the latest installment of Florida reality television, the Florida Supreme Court says the governor cannot choose the next justices of the court. Believe it, or not.

Latest Episode

Like the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing, the Florida case is about a rush to replace outgoing judges. Gov. Rick Scott is pushing his nominations before the November elections.

"Uh no," the state supreme court basically said. Scott isn't running for re-election and won't be governor in time to seat his nominees.

"The governor who is elected in the November 2018 general election has the sole authority to fill the vacancies," the judges officially said in an order. "Governor Scott exceeded his authority by directing the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission to submit its nominations to fill these vacancies by November 10, 2018."

Unlike U.S. Supreme Court judges, Florida's judges have a mandatory retirement age. That means Justices Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis, and Peggy Quince will be gone on January 7, 2019, and so will Scott.

Season Finale

The governor jumped the gun, but there's still a season finale. The high court set a hearing for Nov. 10 to decide when the commission can certify nominations.

Once they are certified, that governor has 60 days to choose a candidate. It's a technical point in a highly political environment.

Scott has repeatedly called the retiring jurists "activist judges," and has rejected nominees proposed by the Florida State Bar. With the the scales of justice in balance, it's another election-time cliff-hanger in Florida.

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