Saturday, November 26, 2016

"Supreme Court JNC's Shameful Shennanigans" by Nancy Smith, Sunshine State News

Thanks to veteran journalist Nancy Smith for her kind words on Sunshine News Network about my work and for chiding the media for not adequately covering the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission's flummery, dupery and nincompoopery. She compared me to the cavalry riding to the rescue. Thank you!


November 26, 2016 - 6:00am

This column is a vehicle for a number of items in a bits-and-pieces, strictly opinion, sometimes irreverent format. Look for "Just Sayin'" to run once a week in this spot.
JNC: Look What Happens When No One's Watching

Nothing exemplifies the chasm between what Florida journalism is today and what it was 20 years ago better than the sloppy, borderline-secret goings-on to find a replacement for Supreme Court Justice E.C. Perry.
One thing I know for sure is, in the 1990s Florida newspapers wouldn't have looked the other way while the Judicial Nominating Commission conducted its "public" interviews at GrayRobinson's offices in Orlando, while the state-owned media, The Florida Channel, lived-streamed the festivities. Where was the cavalry on this one?
On Monday the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission will interview 11 applicants to replace Perry, who will retire at the end of the year.
If any members of the public want to attend, they'll have to slog through Orlando traffic, overcoming Orlando parking difficulties and the kind of private security you have to pass through in fancy downtown buildings -- all to exercise their right to see how people are interacting off-camera. Which, frankly, is particularly important in such meetings. 
Unless you're a lawyer, I'll bet you didn't know much about the Monday meeting. I'll bet most of the reporters in Florida didn't know either unless they read the Times/Herald bureau report in September or the News Service of Florida's advance for the week of Nov. 27.
This is Gov. Rick Scott's first shot at making a Supreme Court appointment. It's a big deal. In fact, how many times have you read somewhere how important judicial nominating commissions are -- if only communities knew how to watch them interact.
If only communities knew they exist is more like it.
In the early-to-mid 1990s, when I was president of the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors, I can promise you an ancient scribe like myself wouldn't have had to scream bloody murder about a journalistic lack of interest in who wins the next seat on Supreme Court. The state's largest newspapers had teams of legal reporters. They would have been all over these applicants like ants on a jelly doughnut.
Sadly, in the era of declining newspaper revenue, the vaunted legal teams are gone. Their jobs have been absorbed into thinned-out newsrooms, given to reporters already up to their eyeballs in two or three other "beats."
You might argue that at least we have more informational aids -- more access to information  -- in the 21st century than we did in the '90s. You might be thinking, now we can get online and access all the applications for Supreme Court justice in a heartbeat, we don't need no stinkin' legal reporters.
That's how it should be.
Until the night before Thanksgiving, none of the 11 applications were posted on the Governor's Open Government website. And the only reason they're posted now is because one St. Augustine blogger  Ed Slavin,  rode to the rescue. He got tired of waiting for Judicial Nominating Commission Chairman Jason Unger to do the right thing. Slavin called Jack Reid in Rick Scott's Open Government Office to intervene. Though Reid stepped up, there still is no access to communications submitted in support or opposition to the applicants. In fact, even the applications are a job to find. For me, anyway.
"This prompt action [of Jack Reid's] helps remedy the delays and desuetude by GrayRobinson lobbyist Jason Unger ..." writes Slavin. "Mr. Unger snail-mailed me a computer thumb drive, never acting on my request to place it on a website. This was an appearance of impropriety."
It gets worse.
"Lobbyist Jason Unger still refuses to schedule Supreme Court JNC meetings for a government building, insisting on meeting in the offices of Gray Robinson. This is an appearance of impropriety."
So, you say, at least The Florida Channel will be showing the meeting in full. I mean, at least's that's something we didn't have available in the 1990s.
Something. But not enough. Certainly TV coverage at a private location is no replacement for an easily accessible public venue.
I'm sorry, but this feels like we're not in America at all, we're in the middle of the old Kremlin. We're recreating Pravda, the official newspaper of the Communist Party back in the day.
And by the way, it wasn't Unger who asked for The Florida Channel to come on in and shed what light they could on the proceedings. It was the channel's Beth Switzer looking to fill a hole on a quiet Monday -- it was she who initiated the contact. In a way, the meeting is being televised by accident.
Where are all these people allegedly so concerned about the independence of the judiciary? Slavin is the only troop in the cavalry that I can see now. Maybe more are coming.
I have to wonder, why do we even need the press if the press is OK with Prav... oops, I mean The Florida Channel ... deciding what gets on camera and what doesn't?
The JNC meeting begins at noon Monday at GrayRobinson, P.A., 301 East Pine St., Suite 1400, Orlando. It would be worth showing up just to tick off Unger.


Thank you Nancy and Ed, this crazy is now exposed. Slavin is the best in North Florida when it comes to exposing wrong doing. I agree Nancy, back in the day of real reporters this would not have happened. I will remember this when 2018 comes around. Scott should really step it up to correct this wrong doing or honest and transparent people will not vote for his US Senate run. Ed Slavin is an Old School Investigate Reporter who always gets his STORY FACTUAL, ACCURATE, and STRAIGHT UP !

1 comment:

Warren Celli said...

Kudos to you Ed, and Nancy Smith!

This article is just more testimony as to why so many people now think the rule of law is such a co-opted gross scam owned and operated by the insular rich.


"Deceptively, these disingenuous hypocrite pretenders ask for your input in order to make you believe that you have a say in "your" government and then these same low life cretins, when you do send them your concerns, ignore you! They shun you! They treat you as lesser non persons.

It is no wonder that so many citizens have tuned these corporate and wealth adoring immoral jackasses out. It is no wonder that so many citizens refuse to participate in government. It is no wonder that so many citizens now view them with such open disdain and contempt.

Their bias and mission is now very clear; they are self anointed elite defenders of the rigged system that sustains the wealth of the rich at the expense of the rest of us."