Judicial Term Limits Plan Advances, But Not Without Skepticism

Nov 3, 2015

Florida’s appellate and Supreme Court magistrates could face more restrictions on the length of time they can serve. A proposed constitutional amendment to impose judicial term limits has started working its way through the statehouse, but some are skeptical of the motives behind the effort.

Credit Joe Gratz via Flickr

Today in Florida, appeals court judges and state Supreme Court Justices are appointed, and face merit retention votes every few years. Supreme Court Justices are forced into retirement at 73. But if Rep. John Wood has his way, judges and justices could face another hurdle: term limits:

“I would encourage everyone to think about the proper role of the judiciary and I would ask that you, at this point, support moving forward with this conversation."

Wood, a Winter Haven Republican, says term limits are only fair since they are already in place for lawmakers and the Executive Branch. But  Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, picked up on Woods word-choice: “proper role of the judiciary."

“So you mentioned the 'proper role'...this would improve the proper role of judges…what impropriety can you point to in the existing system of our judiciary where this is necessary?” Dudley asked.

It’s a not-so-subtle reference to long-standing complaints Republican leaders have had with the courts. Judges have tossed out bills, and constitutional amendments approved by the Republican-led legislature. Most recently the sides clashed over redistricting, with the Florida Supreme Court declaring Congressional lines drawn by lawmakers unconstitutional. The plan is part of a list of ideas announced by future House Speaker Richard Corcoran two months ago.

“No public office, whether it be us as public representatives, whether it be the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General or yes, a judge, should be for life," Corcoran said during his speaker-designate address to the House.

The bill cleared the House judiciary on an 8-5 vote. Other committees will have to approve the proposal and then it has to go to the same judiciary committee to get onto the ballot. if all is good, the amendment’s supporters will have to get 60-percent of Floridians to agree.