Politics vs. the Judiciary, Again

In Florida, politics seems to be interfering with the justice system.

Gov. Rick Scott keeps rejecting lawyers chosen by The Florida Bar to serve on the panels that screen applicants for judgeships. It’s a departure from the past. According to the bar, Scott’s predecessors, Charlie Crist and Jeb Bush, never rejected its nominees.

“It’s very frustrating,” Bill Davis, a Tallahassee litigator and a member of the Florida Bar Association’s board of governors, told The Wall Street Journal Law Blog. “We submit the names of highly qualified individuals who go through the time to fill out an application as required, and they all get rejected. It makes it very difficult for us to recruit additional lawyers.”

The Tampa Bay Times reported that lawyers who are registered Democrats, those aligned with left-leaning groups, or those who promote themselves as trial lawyers appear to have little hope of being on a judicial nominating commission.

The governor’s general counsel, Peter Antonacci, told the newspaper that these attorneys are more likely to view the Constitution as a “living” document that evolves along with society’s shifting values, which is at odds with Scott’s beliefs.

A spokeswoman for The Florida Bar said the group respects the governor’s right of rejection and will continue to submit new nominees.

As we’ve noted before, judging and legislating are not the same thing. Politicians may want judges who will always rule the way they want, but that’s not judging. The good judge will keep an open mind, put aside personal beliefs and apply the existing law to the facts before him or her.

The media rarely mention it, but few cases actually involve constitutional or politically loaded issues. Most day-to-day disputes involve mundane choices, such as the true meaning of the statutory language or whether it was meant to apply to a novel situation. A judge’s ability to read and understand the briefs and render a wise and impartial decision is far more important than political views. Kudos to Florida’s lawyers for trying to prevent an unfortunate politicization of their judicial system. 


Posted: 11/25/2013 12:00:00 AM by Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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