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FLORIDA SUPREME COURT JUSTICES

Keeping their seats: Kenneth Bell and Raoul Cantero III have little chance of being voted out of office.

By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE
Published October 26, 2004

Florida Supreme Court Justices Kenneth Bell and Raoul Cantero III are up for a merit retention vote in the November election to keep their jobs for another six-year term.

If history is any guide, the two justices have little to worry about. No appellate or Supreme Court justice has ever been voted out of office.

As part of the merit retention process, they face no opposition, and the voting is nonpartisan. People vote on both justices separately and can either vote for or against retention.

In a poll by the Florida Bar, lawyers overwhelmingly recommended retention of both justices.

Bell, 48, was appointed to the bench in 2002 by Gov. Jeb. Bush. Bell, a seventh-generation native of Pensacola, is the only judge on the high court with experience as a trial judge.

In 1991, Bell became the youngest circuit judge ever in the First Judicial Circuit.

In his application for the post on the Supreme Court, Bell noted that the courts "must recognize their role as the "weakest branch of government' and pay due deference to the legislative and executive branches."

Cantero, 44, also was appointed to the Supreme Court by Bush in 2002. Before his appointment, he was the chief of the appellate division for the law firm of Adorno & Yoss in Miami.

Cantero, the grandson of former Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, was born in Spain to Cuban parents and was a cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School in 1985.

As a private lawyer, Cantero helped defend Orlando Bosch, an unrepentant anti-Castro extremist who was labeled a terrorist by the U.S. government for his purported ties to bombing raids on Cuba.

THE JOB

Supreme Court justices sit on Florida's highest court and rule on appeals from lower courts, death penalty cases, the validity of state statutes or constitutional provisions and other matters. Justices are appointed by the governor for six-year terms. Each justice makes $155,150 a year.

[Last modified October 22, 2004, 13:50:17]

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