We've talked (a lot) about Amendment 2 but what about Amendment 3?
It may be the most important Florida constitutional change nobody's talking about.
Besides whether to legalize medical marijuana and devote more tax dollars to conservation, voters will also be asked Nov. 4 whether the next governor should have the power to fill three of the Florida Supreme Court's seven seats after the justices' required retirements in January 2019.
If Amendment 3 passes, either incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott or Democrat Charlie Crist would have extraordinary leverage to reshape the court for decades.
The crux of the debate is the ambiguity in the state constitution. Justices are forced to retire at age 70, although they can finish their six-year terms if less than half the time remains. But the constitution doesn't specify who should make that decision if their terms end the same time as a change in governorships.
Florida's highest court has the final say on issues that touch people every day, from abortion rights, health care and insurance, to redistricting and education overhauls. And it has frequently drawn the ire of Republican legislative leaders and governors in recent years.Harry Lee Anstead, former justice of the Florida Supreme Court, has some harsh words for Amendment 3.
In the past, Florida was hailed nationally as a model system for appointment of fair and impartial judges based solely on merit. It was perhaps the greatest legacy of the late Gov. Reubin Askew, who voluntarily gave up his sole authority to appoint judges in favor of a nonpartisan merit selection system based on his belief that "the judiciary is too important to be left to partisan patronage."...
Now, instead of working to restore Askew's nonpartisan merit system, the current legislative majority is seeking to accelerate a partisan political power grab of Florida's judiciary at the highest level. They want to vest a lame-duck outgoing governor with the authority to fill three seats on the Supreme Court that become vacant after the governor's term expires.
The sponsors of Amendment 3 say they are trying to eliminate confusion and an imaginary future constitutional crisis in the delay of a new governor making the appointments. Those claims are thin cover for continued improper political interference in our courts...
What Floridians are really being asked to eliminate is a critical protection Askew built into the system of merit selection and retention. When the system was adopted, it was built on two pillars of public input and accountability. In addition to requiring appointed judges to go before the public for merit retention at regular intervals, a governor seeking re-election could be held accountable at the ballot box for his appointments. That accountability vanishes if an outgoing governor makes the appointments.
The scheme proposed in Amendment 3 gives a departing governor the power to tip the scales of justice for partisan reasons on the way out the door — with impunity. And, therein lies the easily identified real intent of this amendment. Partisan advocates, frustrated by the public's rejection of their attempt to remove these same three Florida justices in their retention elections in 2012, have audaciously found another scheme to achieve their goals of stacking the court politically.
It is a one-time gamble and a shortsighted strategy on multiple levels. First, it presumes Gov. Rick Scott is re-elected so that he can make the appointments at the end of his second term. More importantly, it cynically ignores the possibility that an informed Florida public will reject this blatant attempt to politicize the judiciary.
congratulations to the people of Alaska on achieving marriage equality! How long can it be now before Sarah Palin is forced by Obamacare into a same sex marriage with Katie Couric? I could make millions on the videos!