By Noreen Marcus, FloridaBulldog.org
The midterm elections could transform the Florida Supreme Court, but probably won’t.
Next month voters can choose to evict up to five of the court’s seven justices. In theory, Floridians could respond to the court’s regressive designs by firing most of the designers.
They could do what the Sun Sentinel urged in an editorial last week: Remove Justices Charles Canady, Ricky Polston, Jamie Grosshans and John Couriel, all key players in the court’s “harsh new majority.” The newspaper recommends keeping moderate Justice Jorge Labarga, “whose principled but lonely dissents in high-profile cases have exposed the majority’s radical activism.”
Yet it will be astonishing if any of the four conservatives lose at the polls.In the 44 years that Florida voters have been empowered to retain or reject appellate judges, they’ve never once dropped a Supreme Court justice.
This campaign season, editorials in some major newspapers call for rejecting the four arch-conservative justices, arguing they’ve broken trust with the public. Traditional media aren’t as far-reaching and influential as they used to be, however.
Proven vote-getting techniques like splashy advertising productions, social media saturation and a vigorous ground game seem to be reserved for the many higher-profile campaigns in the run-up to Nov. 8. It’s hard to compete for airtime with Gov. Ron DeSantis versus Charlie Crist or Rep. Val Demings versus Sen. Marco Rubio.
LESS FOCUS ON JUDGES IN MIDTERMS
The consensus among progressives seems to be that investing in a judicial removal campaign would be counter-productive, Democratic political consultant Keith Donner said.
“I’m voting to retain,” he said. If voters dismissed any justices, “DeSantis would appoint even more radicalized ones.”
He noted that polls show DeSantis will probably win reelection. And even if Crist managed to beat him, Crist’s own history suggests he wouldn’t necessarily choose liberal justices.
In 2008 when then-Republican Crist was governor, he chose Canady, one of the conservatives on this midterm ballot. A former Republican lawmaker, Canady finished his term as chief justice in June and remains a leader of the majority bloc.
Voters pay scant attention to judicial elections, especially in a midterm, according to Christopher Daniels, a political science professor at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. He blamed a failure of education compounded by bad timing.
“We kind of hurt ourselves because there’s so much effort toward getting out the vote in a presidential election year that people have become accustomed to that,” Daniels said. “They’re used to being constantly bombarded about going out and voting.”
“You can’t maintain that type of effort in a midterm year and that hurts the overall electoral situation,” he said.
‘YOU NEED TO PICK YOUR BATTLES’
Voters who are unfamiliar with the Supreme Court tend to skip past the judicial retention part of their ballots. That doesn’t impact the outcome because a justice needs only one vote more than 50 percent of the total retention vote to secure a six-year term.
“If there’s a concerted effort against one of the judges, either in the Supreme Court or the courts of appeal, they’ll get in the upper 60s [percent] instead of the mid-to-upper 70s,” said Democratic activist Larry Davis.
In other words, the most likely payoff isn’t worth the effort. ”It’s frustrating for those of us who care, but you need to pick your battles,” said Davis, a lawyer in Hollywood.
Whether and how much the public cares is anyone’s guess. The only polling on merit retention, which the Florida Bar conducts among its members, invariably shows that most lawyers support whoever’s on the bench at the moment.
A total of 5,738 lawyers responded to an August poll that included the five justices up for retention.
LAWYERS: LABARGA YES, BUT GROSSHANS?
Lawyers gave Labarga the highest marks, with 87 percent who have “considerable knowledge” supporting him. Polston had the next highest vote of confidence, 72 percent, and Grosshans had the lowest, 55 percent.
Labarga also had the smallest do-not-retain percentage, 13. Grosshans had the biggest, 45 percent, meaning that close to half of knowledgeable poll respondents wanted her gone.
In contrast, when the subject is the U.S. Supreme Court, the major pollsters constantly sample public opinion, often in partnership with big media outlets. Polls show that confidence in the nation’s highest court is historically low.
Only 47 percent of U.S. adults say they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in the federal court system, Gallup.com reported on Sept. 29. That’s a seven-point drop since last year; in June the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe vs. Wade, the 50-year-old abortion privacy landmark, igniting a furious backlash.
Why there’s no comparable polling in Florida, another abortion law battlefield, “comes down to funding,” Daniels said. “Who’s gonna pay for people to go out there and do the polling and what interests would be served by knowing that information?
“It has to be funded by someone, so someone has to have an interest in getting this out to the public,” he said.
SON OF THE LAST ELECTED JUSTICE
Florida’s judicial framework, in which trial judges run for office and the governor appoints appellate judges subject to periodic voter review, was designed to shield upper-level jurists from politics.
But critics call merit retention a sham, just a way for appellate judges to claim bragging rights after meaningless votes. The critics say gubernatorial appointments are driven by patronage and DeSantis delegates all screening of judicial candidates to the ultra-conservative Federalist Society.
Lawyer Rick Karl, the Democratic candidate for state House District 29 in Central Florida, has a personal connection to the merit system. Karl’s late father Frederick Karl was the last elected Florida Supreme Court justice, in 1976.
Two years and a reform movement later, choosing appellate judges became an executive function. Independent nominating commissions were supposed to screen applicants and produce short lists of candidates for the governor’s final selection.
While a student at Florida State University, the younger Karl argued for a merit system in an article for a scholarly journal. He wrote about his father’s difficult run for the Supreme Court, when ethics rules kept him from talking about law.
Since then, Karl has become disillusioned with the merit system, he indicated in an interview.
“I don’t think it’s working the way it was intended to work, but the alternative is to go back to judicial elections and I can’t imagine that would be any better in this highly politicized environment,” Karl said.
TRIO FOUGHT ‘JUDICIAL ACTIVISM’ CHARGE
Judicial rejection campaigns are uncommon, though where there’s a will and enough money, activists find a way. Even then, success is elusive.
After the 2000 election of President George W. Bush, in which the Florida Supreme Court played a pivotal role, Donald Trump associate Roger Stone led a failed attempt to unseat Justices Harry Lee Anstead, Charles Wells and Leander Shaw.
Stone and former Palm Beach County commissioner Mary McCarty had formed the “Committee to Take Back Our Judiciary” to influence the court to rule for Bush in the 2000 ballot recount fight. They continued to use the committee to get rid of the three justices in the 2002 retention election; major funding came from a firm owned by Stone’s ex-wife Ann Stone, a conservative activist, in the form of a $150,000 loan.
The last time anyone took forceful steps to eject a Supreme Court justice was in 2012, when a group funded by the Koch family and other wealthy conservatives targeted three liberals: Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince and Fred Lewis.
Even the Republican Party came out against them, a first for a “non-partisan” judicial race.
Opponents funded a sneaky ad campaign featuring woke-looking youths who tagged the justices as anti-libertarian. They referred obliquely to rulings conservatives hated – for example, the court had scrapped a ballot measure that could have sabotaged “Obamacare,” the Affordable Care Act.
The three justices joined forces and raised more than $1 million from the legal community. They disputed charges of “judicial activism,” criss-crossing the state to educate law schools and editorial boards.
PARIENTE’S SPOT-ON PREDICTION
The justices told the Orlando Sentinel editorial board that the smear campaign was part of then-Gov. Rick Scott’s plot to reshape the court in his own partisan image.
“I think it’s a smokescreen for the real issue, which is a political party wanting to control all three branches of government,” Pariente told the board.
The counterattack worked. The justices won retention with 67-68 percent of the vote.
But their mandatory retirement at the end of 2018 let incoming Gov. DeSantis finish the job of transforming the court from majority-liberal to supermajority-conservative.
Today, as Pariente foretold, Republicans dominate all three branches of Florida government.
Karl said the high court’s post-midterm agenda is obvious.
“I fully anticipate that the Florida Supreme Court will uphold the 15-week abortion ban,” he said, “and reverse the 1989 case [the In re: TW decision] that found our Florida constitutional right to privacy guarantees the right of a woman to make her own health care decisions.”
Pingback: Storm clouds: Ian creates election dilemma for DeSantis – POLITICO - updatem / October 12, 2022 7:47 am
Whodathunkit / October 12, 2022 9:31 am
Thought this was a 503-c org. Seems more like just another a Democrat rag.
Mike / October 12, 2022 10:48 am
Sounds like liberals have their panties in a wad.
doug / October 12, 2022 11:44 am
nothing sadder than a completely biased headline!!!!
Robin / October 12, 2022 12:21 pm
Well researched and written! Very helpful to me as a relatively new Floridian voter. Thank you!
Mark Melton / October 12, 2022 12:39 pm
It’s too bad you’re not a real reporter.just another opinion piece writer. A real reporter presents real facts, not just left leaning liberal jabs and opinions.
Tom / October 12, 2022 1:40 pm
Liberal justice’s = Liberal policy = NO WAY! We want Law & order in Florida let ‘em move North! Take care Liberal Justices! Not in Florida
James / October 12, 2022 1:41 pm
i am very concerned with the trending of pick your judge out of the Federalist bush bag. The time is now to clearly have an opportunity to elect judges with at least a not so blatant political activist agenda. The recomendation to keep them all in sadens me but i understand the political logic behind it. i’d rahter not have an orange cult worshiping branch of government deciding the what laws are constitutional according deathsantis or trumpelini.
Mark / October 12, 2022 2:16 pm
What a liberal biased report, and very progressive. What they consider “radicalized” choices by our gov. would be the same choices they themselves would have made a generation ago as Democrats. The entire party has become progessive-communists, they’re goal is to wipe out gender, to destroy the US Constitution and the rights there in, demonize our Founding Fathers and the ideas of Freedom they espoused using that same freedom to do so. If you say anything against their agenda you can loose your job, loose your friends and worse. They are now a very dangerous cult, the fact that 50% of the country is in their camp is horrifying. These are the nuts that ran in the shadows now running the show (and the rank and file have no problem with the insanity they spew, like teaching kids to hate white men…that somehow being male is Toxic Masculinity and men should become female and females should become like men, yet women hate Beta men so its just creepy). This report and the many more like them (as well as those on 99% of the 24 hour news channels) and most of all the Big Tech companies that severely control content (removing conservative voices, which are just the average American voice from say 1995) are hell bent on turning us into some sort of China like state. Of course, they are getting their funding from Communist sympathizers in the USA Europe and mostly China. And its really all about power. They are wealthy and don’t intend on giving up a penny to fund this communist progressive nightmare. That is YOU who will be paying for it. And welcome to Venezuela-USA No thanks! I will be voting for the most Freedom loving, pro-Constitutionalist, Justices as I can, and I suggest you all do the same. Throw off the chains of leftist hate. In the end you will sink the ship you’ve enjoyed riding on (as did your forefathers that died for it).
Vanessa / October 12, 2022 2:20 pm
Pathetic democrat pandering and whining. Not going to happen… they are not taking Florida.
Capt Charles 'Bob' Munsey Jr. USN Ret / October 12, 2022 2:47 pm
To have true justice the courts should be neither ‘left’ or ‘right’. If a law cannot be judged by its wording and original intent, then it should be rewritten or eliminated. Justice cannot be found when judges make decisions based on party politics. Such practices are destroying our nation.
Charles Munsey Jr.
Capt USN Ret
Action Jackson / October 12, 2022 4:40 pm
Happy to see many have already commented on the Liberal plea to everyone to oust the judges. Sounds like a marketing ad for the Left. Hopefully you were at least paid for the democrat ad you just ran. What a bias job buddy. Typical hogwash from the media. Why can’t you all just be journalists and report facts for once? Disgusting
William Wallace / October 12, 2022 5:11 pm
For all the libtard rainbow licking numbnutz out there, The Law and myself don’t give a flyin phukk about your FEELINGS, which is the commune Marxist inbreeding and brainwashing you sustain. The Law is The Law. If you don’t understand English you don’t deserve a job anywhere in the USA. The Constitution of The United States and The Constitution of Florida have no words, terminology or reference to anyones FEELINGS. You scum buckets need to move to Venezuela, NOW.
You have no clue. Get lost. You are braindead and soulless.
Ignorance is curable.
Stupidity is lethal.
Get a grip and join the real world.
Smitty / October 12, 2022 6:41 pm
Feed the dog? REALLY? Not when the dog has fleas. And this liberal puff piece is off the leftist chart. Soon we will see the Florida Bulldog publishing its own partisan voter guide.
JohnnyLaw / October 12, 2022 7:12 pm
I found this very useful. Thank you for identifying all the good judges in one convenient location. I’ll vote to retain them all.
Tony / October 12, 2022 8:12 pm
These liberal justices are weak and Florida is a law and order state. Thankfully we have a strong governor who knows what he’s doing. We need stronger judges who will enforce the governing branches of the state and keep law abiding citizens safe.
Me / October 12, 2022 9:41 pm
Bunch of liberal pussies trying force they ways on others …. You don’t like some one views …. Cancel them.
Tony / October 13, 2022 8:09 am
These liberal justices need to held accountable. Crime is out of control all over the country. Thankfully we have a strong governor who knows what he is doing. Florida is a law and order state and we need more judges who believe in the laws governing the state. Criminals need to be held accountable.
Pookah / October 13, 2022 2:01 pm
Far-Right justices? GREAT! Keep them in office!!!! P
Concerned Citizen1 / October 13, 2022 3:52 pm
DISGUSTING ARTICLE! REALLY??? This is the best YOU CAN DO??? Why NOT WRITE ABOUT ISSUES that MATTER; INFLATION, ILLEGALS CROSSING THE BORDER EDUCATION, AND OH YEAH CRIME! Another leftist preaching GARBAGE! If you DON’T LIKE THE LAW AS WRITTEN IN THE CONSTITUTION, (which is what judges ARE SUPPOSED TO UPHOLD), THEN MOVE TO CHINA OR ANOTHER COMMUNIST COUNTRY!
AWB / October 13, 2022 4:28 pm
Awesome! I just did the opposite of the socialist rags recommended actions. Thx for the info.
personwithbrains / October 13, 2022 5:55 pm
Conservatives always looking at crime as something they don’t commit. Per capita Florida has a higher murder rate than NY. They only notice when a black person commits a crime. Jan 6 over 840 charged and 185 convicted. But conservatives don’t see what they don’t want to see and that is their criminal behavior. When the law comes for them they cry the legal system is broke and it should be defunded. They don’t give shit about the law only what they perceive. They don’t have intelligience to know what causes inflation or even what Socialism is, they are fascist democracy haters and support criminal politicians because they have no policy to help to the US just themselves.
“Recent administrations with the MOST criminal indictments:
Trump (Republican) — 215
Nixon (Republican) — 76
Reagan (Republican) — 26
“Recent administrations with the LEAST criminal indictments:
Obama (Democrat) — 0
Carter (Democrat) — 1
Clinton (Democrat) — 2
Guy Noir / October 14, 2022 12:46 am
This is just another communist piece trying to stir up their weakening base. News is supposed non partisan but of course almost every news source is happy to provide opinion in every article instead of only on the opinion page. No wonder they are all going out of business very quickly. This is not objective journalism. Consider that the judges were all liberal until recently and now that we have restored sanity the liberal communists cannot stand it.
susy / October 14, 2022 10:51 am
Vote Labarga out and let DeSantis appoint a better choice for us here in Florida.
GLV / October 14, 2022 1:47 pm
Thank you for this well-written article. Thank you for the information. The legal system is not based on any one party or person. Personally, I will also be voting for my grandchildren, especially the future of the little girls growing up.
Myra / October 15, 2022 5:43 pm
Thank goodness most Americans are more reasonable than the name-calling, fearful bigots who make up so many comments. Hate-filled, foul-mouthed, xenophobes all. I’m sick of being labeled Communist by Far Right Fascists who support neo-Nazism in elected office and courts, in the name of law and order. Where has personal respect gone? Courts should be neutral and Florida’s aren’t. I’m a freedom lover. You know, an old-fashioned American who believes in letting the People rule themselves. It’s funny how GOP used to complain that Big Government shouldn’t tell us how to live and interfere in our daily lives. Ask how militant they are when GOP stops Medicare and Social Security in their old age. Now, when it looks like GOP can imprison anyone who doesn’t agree with them, they’re okay with government invading the most private matters in our lives. GOP is out of touch with real America: a melting pot of immigrants who want nothing more than decent work, decent pay, decent housing, and a better life for their kids. The good news? Dinosaurs always become extinct and the American People strive on for a better society. I vote for the rights of women and youth. We certainly don’t seem to have evolved much…
Florida Voter / October 16, 2022 10:02 pm
Thanks. Now I know to vote YES to Retain in Office.
Eric / October 17, 2022 11:20 am
Now I know who to vote for ! Any Judge you dont want, I will vote retain,,,, Labarga sorry its a big NO,,, Thanks !!!
Berenice / October 19, 2022 1:09 pm
I am happy to read the comments posted here from men and women who have realized the truth about what is going on in our nation. People are sure waking up. This administration has been a total disaster and of course, they have Obama guiding them on how to destroy us. The left has a grip on our throats and we must fight against it. The media is totally biased and controlled by them and unfortunately, some people consider CNN their bible. I hope we vote Labarga out. I wish we could also vote Alejandro Mayorkas out too! Those two Cubans are totally pro-left. I am Cuban myself and trust me when I say that I have seen the things that are happening in the USA before. Where? In Cuba after Castro took over in 1959.
John S / October 19, 2022 3:46 pm
Thanks for the liberal article, now I know who to KEEP in the courts. I couldn’t find the judges info anywhere else. Backfire, good job.
Voter / October 19, 2022 8:06 pm
Thank you Capt. Munsey (2:47pm Oct 12) Well said!
John / October 21, 2022 7:32 pm
Thank you for giving me a blueprint for who I SHOULD vote for this cycle.
Jackson Rip Holmes / October 23, 2022 9:08 am
Thank you for your keen insights into these matters.
I will vote against all four of them.
Airboater / October 24, 2022 6:31 pm
It never ceases to amaze me how liberals ( dems ) all drink the same coolaide . A deceased and dear friend of mine really helped me out when I asked why are they so unreasonable and I quote “ he said to me you can’t reason someone out of something that they haven’t been reasoned into in the first place . “ MAY HE BE BLESSED BY ALMIGHTY GOD FOR ETERNITY 🙄🙏✝️
Bruce / October 25, 2022 9:09 am
Thanks for being a leftist rag. you saved me a bunch of research.
Leonardo Cabrera / October 26, 2022 9:21 am
I thanks a lot this leftist publication for making very easy my desition about justices to vote for in this election. Usually people don’t know too much about justices and judges. This article give me the exact idea about who is who. Now I know I have to vote yes for the 4 justices this article is asking to vote out.
David / October 31, 2022 9:09 am
I searched for conservative justices to vote FOR, thank you for making it easy. Voting AGAINST Labarga.
Haha / November 1, 2022 10:40 pm
MAGA ppl are pathetic. They know republicans are a dying breed and therefore prefer autocracy. They’ll lose of course but how many people will they kill along the way.
Red / November 3, 2022 3:16 am
Wow! Amazed by all the racist comments by the bible toting people; especially that ignorant racist comment about Labarga; “going to vote him out because he is Cuban”. He lists “no political affiliation”, so how did he decide he was Liberal? Judges are to be politically impartial in their decision making. They are the backbone of this government but yet their recent decision to enter into the private health matters of a woman and decide that the government should decide what is best for a woman has changed my mind. Sadly, it is the unwanted infants that will loose from this ignorant decision; born unwanted to be left at orphanages or foster homes. In addition, let’s not forget that the Florida Supreme court also allowed the gerrymandered redistricting map that DeSantis and the GOP provided friends concocted. Yes, they allowed DeSantis’ blatantly Republican-favored map to take gain approval over a map drawn by the State Supreme Court justices 6 years ago. Boy, if that isn’t a slap in the face to the Judicial system. Sad to see the integrity of this country disappear.
Mark Camp / November 3, 2022 10:59 am
Thanks for your article. It saved me some research time because your leftest opinion confirms the Constitutional Conservative Justices I will support.
Ron DeSantis / November 5, 2022 1:53 pm
I fully endorse this article!