Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon and Florida Republican Chairman Lenny Curry are leading the Florida Republican Party’s efforts to encourage voters to remove three Florida Supreme Court justices in the November elections. The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) opposes merit retention for Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, and Peggy Quince.
According to an RPOF press statement, “The 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.”
Many in the Tallahassee establishment are leading efforts to support the justices. A June fundraiser for the justices featured a who’s who of Tallahassee’s political elite. The host committee included former Gov. Reubin Askew, former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Leander Shaw and former Florida Bar and Florida State University President Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte.
Supporters of the justices accuse Republicans of improperly intruding into judicial matters. Cannon called out these attacks for hypocrisy.
“The very people who are opposing the merit retention process now, asked for this system back in the 70s and 80s and they who consider themselves the defenders of free speech and political participation should be ashamed of themselves for criticizing people for or against justices,’’ said Cannon in the Tampa Bay Times.
“They asked for it, they got it,’’ Cannon said.
In an editorial in Florida Voices, RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry blasted the justices for using a million dollar “war chest” funded by trial lawyers and special interest groups. Curry said the decision to oppose retention came after a groundswell of grassroots supporters demanded these justices be held accountable for their decisions.
Curry said the Justices are part of the political process.
“The charge of ‘injecting politics’ into what is already an issue before the voters is nonsense of the highest order,” wrote Curry. “Judges in Florida are appointed by politicians. They decide political cases all the time. And they take political contributions — lots of them. In fact, for years, long before the Republican Party of Florida voted to oppose them last week, these justices have been busy raising money by holding political fundraisers, cashing check after check from politically active donors, lobbyists, unions and other special interest groups.”
Curry scoffed at the justices’ claim to be “above politics,” noting each has raised over $300,000 from special interests groups to fund their retention.
“What’s more, everyone – the Republican Party of Florida included – agrees that these justices should be able to render legal opinions that transcend their political beliefs. But that is exactly the problem. Grassroots members of the RPOF believe these justices have failed in this duty, which is why voters must carefully consider whether they deserve another six years on the bench,” Curry explained.