Florida Senators Back Expansion of Governor’s Nominating Powers for Judiciary
Jan 26, 2012
The following article was published in The Sunshine State News on January 26, 2012:
Senators back expansion of Governor’s nominating powers for judiciary
By Jim Turner
A “compromise” to give Gov. Rick Scott and future governors the power to name the majority of the state’s judicial nominating commission appointments sailed through its first committee on Wednesday.
In a 5-1 party-line vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee backed the bill, SB 1570, that would allow an incoming governor to name five of the nine members of the state’s judicial nominating commission upon taking office, rather than waiting for each individual’s four-year term to expire.
The other four members of the commission would be selected through a process overseen by the Florida Bar.
“I know the governor would like to be able to have all members serve at the pleasure of the governor,” said Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, who sponsored the bill. “But the problem with that is, maybe there’ll be another governor of another party someday, heaven forbid that happens.”
Last year, the Legislature sought to allow the governor to appoint all nine members of the commission upon taking office.
Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, in voting against the bill, said the governor could still get to make his appointments if he waited for each individual’s term to expire.
“It’s a compromise on its face. It’s really not a compromise, we’re just making sure he had five votes to do exactly what he wanted to do if he had nine,” Braynon said.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce announced its support for the bill on Wednesday. The Florida Bar, which opposed the proposal put up in 2011, hasn’t taken a stand on Simmons’ bill.
Todd Copeland, an attorney from Orlando who serves as a Florida Bar appointee to the Judicial Nominating Commission for the 5th Appellate District, said his concern is the potential “learning curve” needed when a majority of members join at the same time.
Bill Davis, an attorney from Tallahassee, urged the senators not to rush the bill to ensure the recommendation process is less sensitive to political whims.
“If there is anything that lawyers want it’s nonpolitical judges,” Davis said. “Judges who can have their politics, but you know that they can set them aside.”
The companion bill, HB 971, sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, has been supported by the House Civil Justice Subcommittee and has its next stop before the Government Operations Subcommittee.