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Judicial Nominating Commissions’

Senate sends measure giving governor control over JNCs back to the House

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The Senate grudgingly approved a measure giving future governors the ability to wipe out a majority of members on panels who help select judges, including Supreme Court judges, and sent it to the House for approval.

The proposal (HB 971) is a compromise with Gov. Rick Scott, who wanted to be able to wipe clean the entire judicial nominating commissions, nine-member panels made up of five gubernatorial appointees and four selected by the Florida Bar.

The House version of the measure would allow Scott to remove effectively fire JNC members picked by his successor Charlie Crist. But the Senate rejected that plan, allowing only members appointed after Scott took office to be affected.

Two Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the bill, which passed 24-14.

Democratic lawyers complained that the measure would politicize the panels, urging their colleagues excogitate the issue before voting.

“This bill gives too much power to a governor who said he wanted people who thought like him to sit on the judiciary of the state of Florida. And that is exactly what we should not allow,” said Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, a former JNC member.

Giving one governor the ability to control a majority of the panels could erode diversity on the bench, Joyner, who is black, warned.

But bill sponsor Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, called the bill a “middle-of-the-road” solution that keeps both the JNCs from “gaming the system” by sending the governor unqualified applicants. And it prevents the governor from doing the same, Simmons said, by giving him control of only five of the nine members.

“They would only have to have one other person, one of those five, to go along with them in their decision-making,” Simmons, a lawyer, said.

The bill would give judges the ability to work as part-time judges immediately after retiring without losing their retirement benefits.

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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