Bar presidents close ranks behind three justicesby John Kennedy | September 5th, 2012
Three Florida Supreme Court justices, targeted for ouster by some conservative activists, flexed some political muscle Wednesday by announcing they’ve got the backing of 23 former Florida Bar presidents.
The lineup of lawyers signed a resolution critical of what they labeled as an attempt to politicize the state’s high court. They also conceded that voters have a poor understanding of merit retention, which Justices Peggy Quince, Fred Lewis and Barbara Pariente face in November.
The three justices, the last appointed by a Florida Democratic governor, are being opposed by a tea party-linked political committee called Restore Justice 2012, which cast the justices as a liberal-leaning bloc.
The campaign is seeking to make the trio the first Florida justices ever ousted in a merit retention campaign. The three justices – combined – have already raised more than $1 million for their campaigns, virtually all of it coming from lawyers and law firms.
In merit retention, justices don’t face-off against an opponent. Instead, voters get to decide, “yes” or “no,” on whether a justice should be given another six-year term.
“Voters need to send a message that politics has no place on the bench. A vote ‘yes’ for retention sends that message loud and clear,” said former Florida Bar President Howard Coker.