For the first time, The Republican Party of Florida is taking sides in Florida’s judicial merit retention.
On Friday, the Republican Party of Florida released a statement openly opposing the retention of three Florida Supreme Court Justices. Merit retention gives voters a say once every six years on whether a justice should keep their jobs. In a written statement, the Republican Party of Florida called Justices Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente, and Peggy Quince “extreme” and took a stance opposing their retention.
“My concern is the perception that this might have on the decision making process of judges, if decisions that they make are going to be challenged by a partisan political party, Democrat or Republican- will that have a perception of impacting the fairness of the decisions that they make.” former Justice Major B. Harding said.
But other legal watchers are raising concerns about the potential impact of political parties influencing the merit vote.
Harding joined two other legal minds in coming to the defense of the justices Monday. Former law-maker and former Florida State University President Sandy D’Alemberte said the Republican Party shouldn’t try to fix what isn’t broken.
“We got politics out of the judiciary, and before we did that that we had terrible scandals in Florida, but now since we’ve fixed those problems by trying to get politics out, what’s happening now is that the Executive Committee of the Republican Party is attempting to break something that’s been fixed.” Said D’Alemberte
And not all Republicans are backing their party’s decision to get involved.
“And the danger with this is what goes around comes around- you do this today, and it might come back and hurt Republicans in the future.” said Former State Senator Alex Villalobos, a Miami Republican, who said the move by his own party does more harm than good.
The Republican Party of Florida did not respond to repeated request for comment.
Under Florida law members of the Judiciary are not allowed to have political party affiliation. Justices can not campaign for themselves or personally participate in fundraising events, however outside groups may campaign for them.