A new development has popped up in the fight over whether outgoing Gov. Rick Scott – or whoever is elected as the state’s next governor – will get to pick three new justices for the Florida Supreme Court.
It’s a decision that could have ramifications for decades. The three retiring justices are considered more liberal.
On October 15, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Scott’s replacement – either Democrat Andrew Gillum or Republican Ron DeSantis – would be the one to pick the justices. This week, an attorney for Scott asked the state Supreme Court to re-hear its decision, saying it hasn’t considered a third option: that the outgoing governor and the incoming governor could make that decision jointly.
That’s what happened in 1998, when outgoing Democratic governor Lawton Chiles met with incoming Republican Governor Jeb Bush to select Justice Peggy Quince.
Gov. Scott is scheduled to leave office on January 7. That’s the same day that Justices Quince, Barbara Pariente and Fred Lewis are retiring from the bench. When Scott contended that he, and not the incoming governor, had the power to select their replacements, two groups filed a court challenge – Common Cause and the League of Women Voters.
In a motion filed Tuesday night by Scott attorney Daniel Nordby, the governor asserts that in its Oct. 15 ruling, the court precluded the option of a joint decision between the incoming and outgoing governors, and should now re-hear the case to consider that.
John Mills, the attorney for the League of Women Voters and Common Cause, responded by writing that the Bush-Chiles joint decision on appointing a Supreme Court Justice has “no value as legal precedent,” and that it occurred during a time when there was uncertainty on the issue. That issue was resolved in 2006 he wrote, when the Supreme Court issued an advisory opinion to Gov. Bush, finding that “vacancies may be filled by the governor only ‘upon the expiration of the term of the judge or justice.'”
The court ruled on October 15 that Scott shouldn’t be able to replace the outgoing justices because their terms don’t end until the last minute of January 7, his last day in office, but the new governor will be sworn in earlier that morning.
In its ruling, the court also found that Scott exceeded his authority by directing the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) to submit its nominations to fill the vacancies on the bench by November 10.
The JNC – made up of Scott appointees – has selected 59 applicants for interviews scheduled to take place over the next two weekends before coming up with a final list to present by November 10.