House Speaker revamps Supreme Court overhaulby Dara Kam | April 6th, 2011
House Speaker Dean Cannon’s latest overhaul of the Florida Supreme Court would retain a single court but divide it into two divisions – criminal and civil – and increase the number of judges from seven to 10.
Cannon made the concessions after taking into consideration objections from the Florida Bar and judges, he said at a press conference this morning.
The GOP leader has wrangled with the high court since it killed three constitutional amendments pushed last year by the Republican Legislature.
Cannon, a Winter Park lawyer, said he’s trying to foster an environment in which “the branches can have an appropriate discourse” but which reaffirms the legislature as “the policy-making branch.”
Cannon also backed off his earlier plan to revamp the way judges are selected for the bench. Cannon’s originally wanted to scrap the Judicial Nominating Commissions, the governor-appointed panel that give the names for prospective Supreme Court judges to the governor, who makes the appointments. Cannon’s latest plan would allow Gov. Rick Scott to select new members to the panel.
And Cannon’s reversed his position on opening up complaints about judges. Instead of opening up the records to everyone, Cannon wants to make it easier for the House, which has the authority to impeach judges, to get the records. The records would then be open to the public after impeachment proceedings begin.
Other items included in Cannon’s new plan:
- Funding: The courts would get at least 2.25 percent of all general revenue to provide a more stable source of funding. The courts are now borrowing their way out of a $72.3 million deficit this year based on a drop in foreclosure filing fees that make up the bulk of their budget.
- Rulemaking: The high court could keep its rule-making authority but the legislature would have the ability to repeal the rule by telling the court what’s wrong with it. The court could then have another chance to revise the rule according to the legislature’s instructions.
- Appeals: Would allow appeals to go straight to the Supreme Court instead of the current need for a direct conflict between two appeals courts before the high court can decide.
- Require Senate confirmation of Supreme Court judges. Judges would automatically be appointed if the Senate fails to vote on confirmation within 90 days.
Voters would have to approve the constitutional changes splitting the court by a 60 percent majority.