Business, Legal Lobby Pan Judicial Reforms

Feb 9, 2017

After railing against the Supreme Court’s rewrite of Republican redistricting plans, House Speaker Richard Corcoran is determined to strike back. But a  proposal for judicial term limits is getting off to a rocky start.

Conservative House members are striking back at the judiciary with a term-limit proposal.

A House subcommittee narrowly passed a measure by Republican Representative Jennifer Sullivan of Mount Dora.  If voters approved the ballot measure next year, justices and appellate judges would be limited to 12 years on the bench.

The same judges already face a mandatory retirement age and an up-or-down, merit retention vote every six years. But Sullivan points out nobody has lost a merit retention vote since they were implemented in 1976.

“An accountability system that does not hold people truly accountable is not an accountability system.”

Business groups and legal advocates warn the move would discourage the best and brightest attorneys from coming to the bench. They say no attorney would look forward to restarting a practice in middle age.

Florida Bar attorney Warren Husband says a higher turnover rate on appellate courts would set off a dangerous decline.

“No. 1, less effective lengthier and more costly resolution of cases. Less consistency in the development of Florida law. A significant decline in qualified judicial applicants and an erosion in public confidence in the judicial system.”

But Sullivan says just the opposite would happen. She says higher churn on the Supreme and appellate courts would open up a career path.