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Update: Supreme Court removes health care and redistricting amendments

In two lengthy 22-page opinions, the Florida Supreme Court voted 5-2 to uphold two lower court rulings and removed Amendments 7 and 9 from the November ballot. Amendment 7 aimed to dislodge the redistricting amendments (#5 and 6) and Amendment 9 was a plebescite on Obama's health care reforms. The court also threw off a property tax amendment, Amendment 3, written by the legislature, for faulty language.

Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justice Ricky Polston, the courts conservative members, were the opposing votes on the decisions relating to Amendmetns 7 and 9. The judges also precluded the circuit court from re-addressing the challenge to Amendments 5 and 6, filed by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown.

Here are links to the opinions: Amendment 9, Amendment 7, Amendment 3, and Amendments 5 and 6.


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We Need Rick Scott to Save Supreme Ct!

These decisions are truly an outrage, especially concerning Amendment 9 where 3 Chiles-appointed justices (Quince, Lewis, Pariente) arbitrarily and inconsistently retreated from their unanimous order in 2004 to place the amendment text of a legislatively-proposed amendment on the ballot (in lieu of ballot summary the Ct itself found defective), as a remedy consistent with legislative intent (i.e. for voters be heard on the issue, not conditioned upon a few statements in a ballot summary, a requirement legislature exempted itself from in 2000), the constitution under Art. XI, and the enfranchisment of voters (not disenfranchisment).

The Court clearly wants to reserve for itself the power to pick and choose which amendments go forth to the voters, using the flimsiest of rationales to present a "damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario." They say the voters need to be fairly informed, and strike amendments for being too short/not saying enough, and then strike the actual amendment text because it doesn't explain the "chief purpose" as the Court sees it. Basically, unless the legislature has the court write its language ahead of time (e.g. by seeking an advisory opinion, as for citizen initiatives), upon being challenged the court has full authority to simply say "nope, while this is the actual text of the amendment, voters are too stupid to understand the chief purpose" or "while this simply explains the amendment, voters are not advised of x, y, z in the amendment"...

I hope the electors speak on November 2 not to retain Labarga (a conservative, please) and Perry, and keep this in mind if/when the time comes around for Pariente, Quince and Lewis. We need Rick Scott to bring our SC back to where it should be, as a neutral referee that interprets and applies the law consistently, while exercising its equitable powers in respect of the constitution and separation of powers so as to enfranchise voters, not disenfranchise them.

Let's Get to Work!

Who is the conservative here?

Imagine the sheer effrontery of a court that "wants to reserve for itself the power to pick and choose which amendments go forth to the voters." It must be frustrating for partisan Republicans to control only the legislative branch and (until overplaying their hand) the executive. Yet the reasoning in each of these decisions is decisive, logical, and extremely well-grounded in constitutional language and precedent.

As to the so-called "arbitrariness" of Am. 9, no one bothered to argue that the Legislature's ballot summary wasn't misleading, and even the one dissenter concedes that the 2004 case was "not binding precedent." If the partisan court envisioned in this letter were to damn the torpedoes of constitutional logic and precedent, it defies belief to contend that a 600-word legislative act, with debatable implications, would be clear and understandable to the average voter without any true summary whatsoever.

A real conservative would recognize the essential role of a nonpartisan judiciary in our constitutional scheme, and would acknowledge (however grudgingly) that these decisions were well handled.

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