After tough retention fight, justices look to make it easier to collect cashby John Kennedy | December 16th, 2013
Three Florida Supreme Court justices raised an unprecedented mountain of cash last year in beating back a bid to unseat them by tea party supporters and the state Republican Party.
Justices and their allies steadily ridiculed their opponents throughout the campaign for politicizing the court.
But this week, the court is poised to advance a provision which the same critics warn will inject even more politics into the judiciary, making it easier for justices to raise money and harness support for future campaigns.
“You could write a book about the hypocrisy of all this,” said Jesse Phillips, a Winter Park computer consultant who led Restore Justice 2012, the unsuccessful campaign to throw out Justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince and Fred Lewis.
“We’re not the ones who raised big money. They did,” he added. “Now they’re looking to take away restrictions limiting them.”
The Supreme Court has proposed changing a judicial canon, or regulation, so that candidates on the same court who face opposition in a merit retention election could campaign together.
It’s designed to avoid the kind of awkward dance the three justices had to engage in last year – when they would try to avoid appearing together when even at the same event or fund-raiser.
Alex Villalobos, a former Miami state senator, now serves as president of Democracy At Stake, an organization formed to combat what leaders call “ongoing threats to the fairness and impartiality of the courts.”
He said justices know they are in a troubling “arms race” when it comes to fund-raising.
“You have to be prepared for a challenge,” Villalobos said. “You don’t know if it’s going to come or how. But it’s like if you put up a burglar alarm. You want to do it before your house is broken into.”
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