The Republican Party of Florida is urging voters to replace all three Florida Supreme Court Justices who will appear on this November’s ballot. Party officials point out that Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince frequently issue activist liberal opinions. The three justices also appear to have unlawfully used public employees to file their political campaign documents.
Every six years, Florida Supreme Court justices face Florida voters in a retention vote. Retention votes are staggered so that the seven justices appear on the ballot during different election cycles. Voters simply decide whether to retain the justices or replace them with candidates to be appointed by the governor at some point in the future.
Republican Party officials called special attention to a 2003 Florida Supreme Court opinion in which the three justices currently subject to a retention vote signed on to an opinion setting aside the death penalty for convicted murderer Joe Nixon. Nixon was convicted in the murder of Jeanne Bickner when a jury found him guilty of tying Bickner to a tree using jumper cables and setting her on fire. The justices ordered a new trial after Nixon claimed he received unfair legal representation.
The Republican Party of Florida released the following statement:
“This week, the RPOF executive board voted unanimously to oppose the retention of Supreme Court Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente, and Peggy Quince. While the collective evidence of judicial activism amassed by these three individuals is extensive, there is one egregious example that all Florida voters should bear in mind when they go to the polls on election day. These three justices voted to set aside the death penalty for a man convicted of tying a woman to a tree with jumper cables and setting her on fire. The fact that the United States Supreme Court voted, unanimously, to throw out their legal opinion, raises serious questions as to their competence to understand the law and serve on the bench, and demonstrates that all three justices are too extreme not just for Florida, but for America, too.”
The Republican Party isn’t the only organization calling attention to Florida Supreme Court decisions. The Florida branch of Americans for Prosperity (AFP Florida) calls attention to several Florida Supreme Court decisions in a statewide campaign entitled “You Be the Judge.”
The AFP Florida website defines judicial activism as “rulings made based on a Judge’s own beliefs and policy preferences rather than the Constitution and rule of law.” The website provides examples of controversial Florida Supreme Court cases in areas such as healthcare, property rights, school choice, separation of powers, personal liability, and civil rights.
In one example concerning healthcare, AFP Florida points out that the Florida Supreme Court blocked a proposed constitutional amendment from appearing on the November 2010 ballot that would have given voters the power to prevent government from forcing individuals or businesses to purchase health insurance. The ballot measure was proposed in response to the federal individual mandate included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
The AFP Florida website invites people to sign a petition against judicial activism:
“As a Floridian I call on each of you to respect the doctrine of separation of powers, protect my fundamental rights, and safeguard my liberties. The success of our state and our republic requires that we have an impartial judiciary that decides cases based on the law and not personal policy preferences; the judiciary should never rewrite law to fit into a judge’s desired outcome,” the petition states. “I expect the judges and justices of our court system to protect the fundamental rights granted to me by our constitution: protect my personal property rights from government intrusion and unwarranted regulation and protect the integrity of the ballot initiative process and citizens’ ability to amend their constitution. The judiciary must allow our elected legislators to establish new policy, and judges must stop legislating from the bench.”
“We are not involved in the merit retention election at all. Our project focuses on the court as a whole and the Majority decisions that have shown an infusion of personal policy preferences over protection of fundamental rights,” Abigail MacIver, director of policy at Americans for Prosperity Florida, told Media Trackers Florida.
The petition can be found at http://youbethejudgefl.com/petition/.