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Cannon’s high court shuffle clears House panel

Thursday, April 7th, 2011 by John Kennedy

House Speaker Dean Cannon’s latest push to revamp the Florida Supreme Court sailed through a House panel Thursday in a vote divided on party lines — with Democrats ridiculing the measure as unneeded and chiefly a partisan payback.

“What is the rush for this?” asked Rep. Richard Steinberg, D-Miami Beach.

Cannon has been at odds with the court since justices last summer struck from the ballot three initiatives approved by the Republican-ruled Legislature. But bill sponsor Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando, said the proposed overhaul is “about accountability and efficiency.”

Another Republican supporter, Rep. Charles McBurney of Jacksonville, said the legislation, “is a transformative resolution.” The Judiciary Committee approved the legislation 12-6.

The bill (CS/HJR 7111) would expand the current seven-member Florida Supreme Court to 10 members — but divide it into two divisions, civil and criminal. The approach is less sweeping than a larger court division initially proposed by Cannon, and backs away from his earlier call for eliminating Judicial Nominating Commissions and giving the governor more autonomy in naming judges.

The measure is aimed at the 2012 ballot, where at least 60 percent of voters would have to approve the change for it to become law.

 Supporters also worked to sell the legislation, saying it includes state funding provisions designed to avert the cash crunch that this week threatened to shutter courtrooms statewide. (more…)

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