The traditionally staid justices in black robes on Florida’s Supreme Court got emotional and animated Wednesday as lawyers asked them to weigh in on something more intimate than what usually comes before them: their jobs.
The issue before the court was whether Gov. Rick Scott has the authority to appoint three new justices to replace three current justices whose terms expire on the same day he leaves office in January 2019. Those appointment could tip the 4-3 balance of the court from progressive to conservative.
The Florida League of Women Voters and Common Cause Florida urged the court to avoid a “constitutional crisis” that could emerge if Scott replaces Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince before his successor takes the oath of office. They argued that if Scott attempts a “midnight appointment” and chooses the successors before the deadline, it will draw lawsuits and send the court system into chaos.
The justices must decide whether to clarify a law that has traditionally been murky — and potentially influence who may be their replacements and new colleagues in the next term — or leave the issue unresolved to potentially face another lawsuit to be decided by justices whose appointments could be questioned, thereby disrupting the normal functioning of the court. Read more here.