Gov. At Odds With South Florida Attorneys Over Judicial Vacancy

May 24, 2016

Credit Carol Highsmith via Wikimedia Commons

The state Supreme Court has to decide what will happen with a south Florida judicial vacancy.

Outgoing judge Laura Johnson resigned her county-level post to run for the circuit court.  And defense attorney Gregg Lerman, who’s hoping to replace her on the Palm Beach County court, says she did so with the intent of opening the seat up to the voters.

“Judge Johnson resigned exactly ten days before and her letter made it clear that her intentions were to comply with the ‘resign to run’ law, and her intentions were clear that she felt this would be an elected position,” Lerman argues.

But state law is murky, with a constitutional provision giving replacement powers to Governor Rick Scott and the so-called “resign to run” statute giving it to the voters. 

The Supreme Court has recognized the governor’s right to fill vacancies so long as an electoral process hasn’t begun.  Because Johnson’s resignation came ten days before candidate qualifying—which is required under the resign to run statute--the governor claims the electoral process hadn’t started.

Lerman points out Johnson herself assumed office after an election to succeed a resigning judge.