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Opposition group releases new ad attacking Florida justices


Restore Justice 2012, the group formed to campaign against what they consider "judicial activism" by the three Florida Supreme Court justices up for merit retention, is out with a new web ad.

The two-minute video highlights the same 2003 murder case that was underscored by the Republican Party of Florida when it announced a "grassroots" decision at its last executive board meeting to oppose retention of Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince and R. Fred Lewis. The party did not oppose the justices in 2006 when the justices were first up for merit retention after the same decision.

The justices "wanted to give this unrepentant killer another chance,'' the announcer says.

This will be the second ad aimed at attacking the justices since the party made its decision. Last week, the conservative Americans for Prosperity Florida chapter announced it was running an ad critical of the same justices for their decision to throw a flawed amendment off the November ballot that would have served as a referendum on health care reform. No details yet on the size of the ad buy and which media markets it is reaching.

Restore Justice 2012 has kept a low profile until now. It is organized as a 527 through the IRS and raised $60,000 through July 13, the last reporting period, with $41,000 of it coming from a Miami physician, Allan Jacobs.

Here's its release:

The Restore Justice Releases New Video Ad Highlighting Controversial Death Penalty Ruling Entering the final month of a two-year voter education campaign, Restore Justice 2012 released a video Monday highlighting the decision by the Florida Supreme Court to give a confessed murderer a new trial. The Justices’ campaigns recently defended the decision, claiming in a statement that they were protecting the killer’s constitutional rights.

“Despite his difficult behavior, Nixon was still entitled to his constitutional rights,” the campaigns said last week in a statement to reporters. Jesse Phillips, President of Restore Justice, sees it differently. “The court invented a way to give a confessed murderer the second chance at life this brutalized woman never had,” said Phillips. “Pariente, Quince and Lewis should not defend this decision. They should apologize for it.”

The decision, which was unanimously overturned by the US Supreme Court, has resulted in various groups calling into question the competence of Justices Pariente, Quince and Lewis, who are merit retention candidates this year. The are being criticized for granting Joe Elton Nixon a new trial after he confessed to burning a woman alive and was sentenced with the death penalty.

Restore Justice plans on airing a version of the video in major media markets statewide. The video is available on the group’s website. Having been ridiculed by supporters of the Justices for waging a petty political attack, Phillips defends his group’s efforts, saying, “I tried to put myself in the shoes of the victim’s loved ones to imagine what it would have been like for them to relive a decades-old nightmare and to be inexplicably denied justice. This issue transcends politics. It’s about defending the vulnerable and victimized, and ensuring justice in a fair society.”

For his part, Justice Lewis has recently contradicted the campaign statement and tried to distance himself from his decision. Some media reports erroneously claimed that he dissented from the opinion. Court records show that while he wrote his own opinion and expressed some reservations, he ultimately joined the majority and concurred with the result.