Two outgoing Republican senators and one returning member joined a growing chorus of prominent Floridians Friday and signed a joint statement opposing the Republican Party of Florida's executive board decision to oppose the merit retention of Supreme Court Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince.
"The Justices who are up for merit retention on the November ballot have served ably and honestly in their roles as Supreme Court Justices,'' wrote Sens. Rene Garcia of Miami, Paula Dockery of Lakeland and Dennis Jones of Semnole, in a joint letter. Dockery and Jones are retiring because of term limits this fall. Garcia was elected withouth opposition.
They urged the party "to reconsider this unprecedented insertion of politics into what has been a system that has served Florida and her citizens well."
Here's their letter:
"We the undersigned are deeply concerned over the September 21 decision of the eight-member Republican Party of Florida executive board to recommend a “no” vote for the retention of Justices Lewis, Pariente and Quince.
"Since the passage of the merit selection/retention system into our state constitution in 1976, both major political parties have maintained neutrality out of respect for the independence of the judiciary and the strong desire of the citizens of Florida to keep politics out of the courts.
"The Justices who are up for merit retention on the November ballot have served ably and honestly in their roles as Supreme Court Justices. Each was retained by the voters in 2006 and immediately after their respective appointments.
"As policy makers, we respect the balance of power between our three branches of government. Each of us has been disappointed in one ruling or another from this and other courts. But the need for a fair and impartial judiciary far outweighs our individual disagreements with any specific opinion.
"We encourage the RPOF to reconsider this unprecedented insertion of politics into what has been a system that has served Florida and her citizens well. We hope that additional Republicans will make their voices heard over the upcoming weeks so that voters understand that Justices Lewis, Pariente and Quince have served with distinction and deserve to be retained on the court."
Senator Paula Dockery. R-Lakeland District 15
Senator Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, District 40
Senator Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, District 13