Florida’s governor would have new powers to pack the state’s Supreme Court under a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow him to make prospective appointments to the bench even if a vacancy occurs the day the governor is leaving office.
Under the proposal by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, the next governor could appoint the successors to three justices of the Florida Supreme Court who would have to retire on the same day the governor’s term ends, on Jan. 8, 2019. Justices are required to retire at age 70, but can continue to serve on the bench until the end of their six-year term.
Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince — the court’s liberal wing — will all turn 70 some time during the next governor’s term, and their six-year terms will all end on the same day as the a new governor is inaugurated.
The state constitution is unclear about whether the incoming or outgoing governor should make the appointment when the vacancy occurs on inauguration day. The proposal is designed to put some certainty into the law by giving governors a “prospective appointment” as part of the state’s merit selection system used for appellate courts.
If voters approve Lee’s amendment in November, Gov. Rick Scott, if reelected, or his successor will have the power to appoint a majority of the seven-member court, a legacy that could last for decades.
Here’s how it would work: Story here.
Photo: Retiring justices, clockwise: Peggy Quince, Barbara Pariente, James E.C. Perry, R. Fred Lewis