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Retain these state appeals and Supreme Court judges

By THE TIMES RECOMMENDS
Published October 23, 2006


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State appeals court judges and Supreme Court justices do not face competitive election. Instead, the state Constitution provides for a system of nonpartisan merit retention. Every six years the state's appellate jurists appear on the ballot for what is in essence an up-or-down vote of confidence.

The process of merit retention gives Florida voters the opportunity to turn out of office those appellate judges and justices who are unethical or who have failed to perform their duties in a satisfactory manner. But this is not the only way the state judiciary is effectively policed. The Judicial Qualifications Commission is charged with investigating allegations of judicial wrongdoing and can recommend the removal of judges for ethical breaches. While no jurist has ever lost a merit retention race, over the years there have been many judges removed or disciplined by the JQC.

This year, three Florida Supreme Court justices and five judges from the 2nd District Court of Appeal are up for merit retention. They are: Supreme Court Justices Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente, and Peggy Quince; and 2nd District Court of Appeal Judges Darryl Casanueva, Charles Davis Jr., Edward LaRose, E.J. Salcines and Thomas Stringer Sr. The Times recommends retention in all cases.

A poll taken by the Florida Bar is instructive. More than 4,700 attorneys around the state returned secret ballots on the question of merit retention. Only those who claimed to have at least limited knowledge of the judges were included in the poll results. The attorneys were asked to consider the following attributes in deciding whether to recommend the judges: quality and clarity of judicial opinions, knowledge of law, integrity, judicial temperament, impartiality, freedom from bias, demeanor and courtesy.

The results were overwhelmingly in favor of retention. On the Florida Supreme Court, Lewis received 89 percent support, Pariente 84 percent and Quince 83 percent. On the 2nd DCA, the highest level of support went to Stringer, who received 91 percent, and the lowest level at 87 percent in support of retention went to Davis and Salcines.

A check of JQC records found that none of the jurists up for merit retention have had formal charges brought against them while in their current positions.

The Times recommends a "yes" vote for merit retention for these justices and appellate judges.

[Last modified October 23, 2006, 02:08:09]


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