Lawsuit against three justices thrown out by courtby John Kennedy | August 8th, 2012
A lawsuit by a conservative legal organization seeking to remove from the ballot the last three Florida Supreme Court justices appointed by a Democratic governor was dismissed Wednesday by a Leon County circuit judge.
Judge Terry Lewis sided with a lawyer for Justices Peggy Quince, Fred Lewis and Barbara Pariente, who argued that the Southeastern Legal Foundation and its clients lacked “standing” to challenge whether the justices should appear on the November ballot.
John DeVault, attorney for the justices, said that only a state attorney or the Florida Elections Commission can determine whether a candidate should be removed from the ballot because of wrongdoing.
The justices received help in submitting their qualifying papers in April from staff at the Supreme Court, with assistants notarizing the justices’ documents just minutes before a deadline. The foundation said the move violated a state law barring public employees during working hours from working in the “furtherance” of someone’s candidacy.
Shannon Goessling, chief legal counsel for the foundation, said after Wednesday’s hearing that it planned to appeal Lewis’ ruling to the First District Court of Appeal.
The justices’ qualifying kerfuffle has been seized on by opponents of the three justices, already tarred as a liberal-leaning bloc by a tea party-linked political committee called Restore Justice 2012. The campaign is seeking to make the trio the first Florida justices ever ousted in a merit retention campaign.