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Senate protects Charlie Crist appointees on JNCs from being removed by Rick Scott

The proposal that would allow Gov. Rick Scott to fire many of the people who help appoint judges and Supreme Court justices has been altered in the Senate so that it only applies to those appointed after Jan. 4, 2011, Scott's inauguration day.

That means Gov. Charlie Crist-appointees to Judicial Nominating Commissions could not be terminated, said Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, who sponsored SB 1570. This was a compromise with the Florida Bar, which felt the bill was aimed squarely at Crist-appointed members.

"Gov. Scott agreed to it without any hesitation," Simmons told the Times/Herald. "He said, 'I don't intend to terminate those individuals.' "

The bill does not change the makeup of the nine-member commissions, called JNCs, which consist of five members chosen by the governor and four chosen with input from the Florida Bar Board of Governors.

What it does is shift the gubernatorial appointees from four-year terms to serving "at the pleasure of the governor." The Bar-nominated appointees would still serve staggered, four-year terms.

The Senate will likely vote on the amended measure this week, two weeks after it passed the House. House Democrats criticized the move because they said it would lead to a more politicized judiciary. But Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, said it will provide "greater accountability" of governors if voters dislike judicial appointments.