In reversal, appeals court bars LinnJONI JAMES and ALEX LEARY
Published October 25, 2006
Less than four hours before Florida’s gubernatorial debate Tuesday night, a state appeals court ruled debate organizers need not include Max Linn, the hard-charging Reform Party candidate from Treasure Island.
The 4th District Court of Appeal’s order was a victory for Leadership Florida and other debate sponsors, which had argued that Linn never met the criteria to be included in the debate: at least a 10 percent showing in two independent statewide polls.
Late Monday, a trial judge in Broward County had ordered Linn be included in the debate, calling the 10 percent criteria subjective and immaterial compared to the public’s right to know a candidate’s position.
“Of course I should be in there. As the judge said yesterday, 'Why in the world are the Republicans and Democrats so afraid of Max Linn?’’’ the candidate said. “At the 11th hour they found the necessary judges that are in their pockets and overruled it. Those judges should be voted out of office.”
Linn, a 46-year-old retired financial planner and term-limits champion who has largely self-financed his campaign, pledged to fight to be included in next week’s final gubernatorial debate.
Debate organizers called Linn’s efforts a routine last-minute maneuver similar to several others rejected by courts at all levels across the country.
“We fully respect Mr. Linn’s right to candidacy, but we took issue with his right to participate in the debate based on criteria set months ago,” said Jeff Bartel, chairman of Leadership Florida. Other debate organizers included Florida Public Broadcasting Service, WPBT Communications Foundation and Florida Press Association, to which the St. Petersburg Times belongs.
The appeals court reversed Circuit Judge Leroy Moe’s decision, issuing a one-page order that cited a 1998 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that said an Arkansas public TV station could exclude an independent candidate with little popular support as an act of journalistic discretion.