Friday, June 23, 2017

Governor Scott's Tomfoolery on Florida Supreme Court Appointments (SAR editorial)

Good editorial in this morning's St. Augustine Record on Gov. RICHARD LYNN SCOTT's latest tomfoolery:

Posted June 23, 2017 12:02 am
Fireworks for sure in Supreme Court appointment tiff

Now that the secret pacts and back-stabbing so apparent in the special session of the legislature is dying down, and mortal enemies Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran are together on a curious “Kumbaya” tour of the state, it’s time to get to the real gorilla in the room of state politics — Florida’s Supreme Court.

Florida is in either an awkward or enviable situation, depending upon your point of view. It has three members of the Supreme Court having to retire their seats in 2018 because of mandatory age limits.

Gov. Rick Scott is term-limited out in 2018 as well. So the big issue is going to be just who names the three new justices to the court, Scott or his successor.

Scott has already said that he’ll name the justices. And that means the left-leaning Supreme Court will become comfortably right-leaning — if he gets his way.

The justices’ terms end Jan. 8, 2019. Technically, Scott’s term ends the same day, because the new governor will take over Jan. 8 as well. So many believe he/she should make the selections if, for no other reason, than because he/she will be the one who has to live with the decisions.

The League of Women Voters and Common cause agree, and have asked the courts to decide the issue while there’s still time. There seems to be no real legal precedent here because of some political hair-splitting.

Yes, the new governor takes office, and Scott leaves office the same day. But Scott says the new governor-elect isn’t actually “in” office until around noon that day when the swearing in takes place. So Scott will appoint three judges before high noon — he says.

Scott has already made one high court appointment during his term, when left-leaning Justice E.C. Perry retired and right-leaning Alan Lawson came in.

Currently Justices Jorge Labarga, Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince form a left-leaning majority. Justices Charles Canady, Ricky Polston and Lawson are in the minority. If Scott prevails, it will radically change the tenor of the high court. Nothing would make him happier.

The high court has turned him back on several key efforts. And Republicans, in genera, have had their fill of the court, which has repeatedly kicked them for their gerrymandering efforts over the past decade, sending them back to Tallahassee — and the drawing board — more than once to fix what they were clearly attempting to break.

And when they couldn’t, the court drew the districts itself.

Republicans having the House, Senate, Governor’s Mansion and the Supreme Court would be a coup, and from where we sit, a dangerous one.

In addition, all five district courts of appeal have Republican-appointed majorities. Three have benches made up entirely of Republican appointees. The most powerful district, the 1st District Court of Appeals, is situated in Tallahassee and hears the majority of cases dealing with the legislature and governor. Scott has personally appointed nine of the 15 judges there.

It was British Lord Acton who, in 1887, wrote in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

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